Have A Party, Don’t Have A Party: Ministers Are All Muddled When It Comes To Christmas Festivities

Government ministers have been sending out a rather inconsistent message about how the public should behave during the festive season in the last week.

But should we limit our social interactions too? That remains far from clear.

Here are all the recommendations put forward by ministers about Christmas this week.

Cancel your Christmas party

Science minister George Freeman revealed that he had cancelled his work Christmas party and decided to hold it virtually instead when speaking to LBC on Thursday.

Blaming the discovery of the Omicron variant for the change, he said: “We’ve decided this year that it is probably sensible to do it by Zoom and wait for the spring.”

Johnson has told people not to cancel their Christmas parties

JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

Don’t cancel your Christmas party

Prime minister Boris Johnson explicitly said the opposite of Freeman on Tuesday.

When asked by reporters if Christmas celebrations should be called off, he said: “The answer is no. The guidance remains the same, and we’re trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach.”

He even maintained that nativity plays should not be cancelled, adding: “We think that, overwhelmingly, the best thing for kids is to be at school.”

No snogging allowed

“I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe” at any Christmas parties according to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey.

However, she added that the government was working hard so that everyone could enjoy a “knees-up”.

Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston on Wednesday, she said: “I think we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible.”

She later clarified on Twitter: “Don’t kiss with people you don’t know…”

Get your lateral flow test before

People should test themselves for Covid by taking a lateral flow test before social interactions this Christmas, according to health secretary Sajid Javid.

He said: “It’s not a formal recommendation, the guidance, but if I was going to a party with lots of people [I would get tested].

“But I would have done that by the way even before we knew about this variant.”

He later told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “Go to the party but just be cautious.”

Don’t socialise

Head of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries urged people not to socialise “when we don’t particularly need to” on Tuesday.

She also said working from home would be “a good thing to do” if case numbers continue to rise.

Dr Harries – head of NHS test and trace – urged people not to socialise where possible
Dr Harries – head of NHS test and trace – urged people not to socialise where possible

Rob Pinney via Getty Images

Do socialise

No.10 slapped down Dr Harries’ advice not to socialise where possible by claiming that was not the government’s official advice at the moment.

Asked about her recommendation, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “No. Our advice to the public is as set out at the weekend.”

They pointed out that beyond the mandatory face coverings in some settings, contacts of those who tested positive for Covid and new travel rules, the government has released no “further guidance to the public”.

Wear a mask – but not all the time

People are now legally obliged to cover their faces in shops and on public transport, but not in other areas such as theatres, pubs and bars.

Asked if this means you should wear a mask during a Christmas party, Javid told BBC Radio 4: “It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating.

“People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.”

Self-isolate – but not for long

The government announced that double-vaccinated people arriving into the UK will now have to take a PCR test and their second day in the country. They will have to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.

Leaked documents from Sage scientists revealed that the government had been advised to ask travellers to take PCR tests on day five and eight after their arrival in the UK – meaning they would have to self-isolate for much longer.

But Johnson has maintained that two-day isolations were “balanced and proportionate measures designed to protect the British people from the Omicron variant”.

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