The UK Government have briefed to the press that they won’t be changing plans for Christmas because of a surge in Covid-19 – before a meeting with devolved governments to decide the matter tomorrow.
The First Minister of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove met today to consider changing the cross-UK restrictions.
A Welsh Government source said they would “reconvene tomorrow to confirm the position” – but reports on tomorrow’s front pages suggest that from the UK Government’s point of view, the decision has already been made.
According to reports in the Telegraph and Daily Mail Boris Johnson remains determined to push ahead with plans to allow families to meet this Christmas, and will not change the rules that say three households can meet for five days from Dec 23 to 27.
However, he will urge people to self-isolate before joining up with other households and will issue stronger guidance about what people should do over the festive period.
A government source told the Telegraph: “We’ve set out the rules. People know what they are; it would be wrong to change them this close to Christmas when they have made plans.”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford had earlier said he would “not lightly put aside” the “hard-won” four nations agreement over household mixing at Christmas.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said they were “considering whether any additional precautions are necessary in light of what we know so far”.
Earlier the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Health Service Journal (HSJ) called for the governments of the UK to scrap plans to allow households to mix this Christmas.
Wales has jointly agreed a five-day relaxation in the Covid-19 rules over Christmas in order to allow people to travel and see extended family.
But Wales is also at present the part of the UK with the highest number of cases per population – a seven-day average of 425 cases per 100,000.
Eight of the UK’s top 10 worst infected areas are in Wales with Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend the top three. On the weekend the number of positive Covid-19 tests passed 100,000 in Wales.
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the situation across Wales was “very serious” but added it was not Wales’ “preference” to break the Christmas rule relaxation.
“There is a lot of capital invested in that easing of the rules which all four countries signed up to,” he said.