Minister: No Hugs in UK Family Christmas Plans

Minister: No Hugs in UK Family Christmas Plans
Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds a virtual press conference on the latest CCP virus developments at Downing Street, London, on Nov. 16, 2020. (Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Simon Veazey
The UK government is working on a national plan for families to see their loved ones over Christmas, according to the health secretary—but will expect friends and relatives to refrain from hugging.

"We're working with devolved administrations to try to agree a set of rules for Christmas that will keep us safe, be the same across the UK, I hope, but also allow people to see their loved ones, which I know so many people are yearning for," Matt Hancock told ITV News on Friday.

The devolved administrations are currently out of step with their measures to tackle the spread of the CCP virus.

Hancock said he hoped an agreed set of rules across the whole of the UK could be reached, because "so many people travel to different parts of the UK over Christmas."

But the health secretary indicated that social-distancing rules wouldn't be dropped during the festive season.

“I’ve got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout, because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus,” he told Times Radio.

"I know how much people are yearning for Christmas that's a bit more like normal and to see loved ones." Hancock told BBC Breakfast. "There will have to be rules, unfortunately, to keep the virus under control. But we hope that that can allow something a bit closer to normal Christmas ... to give people the chance to see their family and loved ones."

England started a month-long lockdown two weeks ago just as Wales emerged from a 17-day firebreak. Northern Ireland is now heading into a lockdown. Scotland is still following a localized five-tier system, with many regions now plunged into a three-week lockdown.

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford told the BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme on Friday that he had been in talks with senior government officials about a UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions.

“We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail, so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas,” he said.

Most scientists say it's too early to judge the impact of England's current lockdown. However, some data suggest that while hospital rates and death rates are high, infection rates were already starting to fall at the start of the lockdown.

The head of membership organisation NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, warned that the next five to seven days will be crucial in evaluating the impact of the lockdown on health care services.

"Whilst there are welcome signs that the rate of hospital admissions in Liverpool and Manchester is finally starting to slow down, this hasn't yet happened consistently in places that imposed tougher restrictions on social contact later," he wrote in Nov. 20 blog post.

"Christmas is incredibly important to many of us. But, to coronavirus, December 25 is no different to November 25 or January 25. There is a real risk that in our desire to celebrate Christmas, we swap a few days of celebration for the misery of a full third wave a few weeks later."

Meanwhile, the most up-to-the-minute method of tracking the spread of the CCP virus suggests different patterns in different regions.

The ZOE COVID Symptom Study tracks the virus in real-time through modeling from people recording symptoms on a phone app.

Principal investigator Tom Spector said on Friday that the survey predicts 34,000 new cases, with the infection rate, R, below the magic number one. "Falls in five areas," he wrote on Twitter. "Rise in Midlands and East and London and South pretty flat over last week. Lockdown clearly not working in some areas and most drops occurred before lockdown—so regional view needed."

Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.