British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he would not ban Christmas family gatherings but asked people to exercise “extreme caution” against the CCP virus during the festive period.
The British government decided last month to ease CCP virus restrictions over the Christmas holidays to allow family gatherings. But as London and some other areas were moved into the highest tier of restrictions this week, some doctors criticised the plan as a “rash decision” that will “cost many lives.”
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, Johnson acknowledged the need to exercise caution.
As some scientists believe transmission can take place asymptomatically, “we should exercise extreme caution in the way we celebrate Christmas,” he said.
Johnson said there was “unanimous agreement” across all the UK’s regional governments, including the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that the existing plan should not be changed, because “we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans.”
“But we do think it’s absolutely vital that people should at this very, very tricky time exercise a high degree of personal responsibility, especially when they come into contact with elderly people,” he said.
Last month, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland reached agreement to relax CCP virus rules for Christmas over the five-day period from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27.
Under the agreement up to three households can meet in a “Christmas bubble” at home, outdoors, or in places of worship.
They cannot, however, meet at indoor hospitality or entertainment venues and once formed, they cannot change who makes up the bubble at any time over the five days.
But the plan met with increasing resistance as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus situation worsened. On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament there were “very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex, and Hertfordshire.”
He also said more than 1,000 cases of a new variant of the virus had been identified, mainly in southeast England.
On Tuesday, two influential medical journals—the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal—urged the government to scrap the plan to loosen rules over the festive period and to tighten restrictions instead.
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, joined a chorus of politicians also calling on the government to change course.
But Johnson said the way forward is not “imposing endless lockdowns or cancelling Christmas,” but defeating the virus “with vaccines, with community testing, and with tough tiering.”
Mary Clark and Reuters contributed to this report.