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Priti Patel has urged people to consider cancelling Christmas plans that involve travelling to visit family or friends, in another ratcheting up of government warnings about the upcoming festive relaxation of coronavirus rules.
The home secretary said that while, under law, people could mix in up to three households for five days over Christmas, people who had made plans to travel long distances should now not do this.
“I would urge people to change,” Patel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I won’t be seeing my parents this Christmas. My parents live in a different part of the country and I will not travel to see them.
“I want to protect them, I don’t want to be spreading the virus. I feel I will take that responsibility and others will make that judgment too.”
Her advice follows Boris Johnson’s warning at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that people should try to limit the scale and length of any Christmas gatherings.
One of the backbench Conservatives who has warned against the festive relaxation of Covid rules attended what was billed as a Christmas party at a private members’ club in London attended by 27 people, it has emerged.
Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons defence committee, spoke at the event run by the Iraq Britain Business Council, held at the Cavalry and Guards Club in central London, according to the Daily Mail.
Ellwood told the paper that the event was a business meeting. London was then still in tier 2 of coronavirus restrictions, and business meetings at hospitality venues are permitted under those rules.
“I went there to meet business people and that is what it was,” he said. “The club went to extreme lengths so that as a business function it was absolutely Covid-compliant.”
While Patel insisted the government was right to keep the Christmas rules unchanged, she appealed for people to be cautious.
“We would urge everyone to be conscientious and to make the appropriate plans and the appropriate changes to their plans as well, hence the point about having a smaller and shorter Christmas,” she said.
“I think the British public are smart enough to make their own decisions and judgments and they don’t want to put themselves at risk, they won’t put their friends and families at risk.
“We’re urging people not to travel. Why would you travel? If you’re in a low-tier area, why would you travel into a high-tier area? So people will exercise their judgment.”
While Johnson said on Wednesday that talks between the four UK nations had resulted in agreement that the Christmas plans, drawn up in November, would remain unchanged, this will not be the case.
The Welsh government has announced it will legislate to reduce the number of households permitted to mix at Christmas from three to two. Scotland advised that a maximum of two households should gather and recommended limiting reunions to one day, if at all.
“A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas, and shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas,” Johnson told the No 10 press conference.
Standing alongside him, Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the relaxation would almost certainly lead to more deaths.
Source: The Guardian
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