UK Covid live: No 10 refuses to back Minister’s suggestion that major Christmas parties could be reckless

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Labyrinthine Covid Reminder System Is The Real Reason For The Delays


Hello. This is the time of year when many of us are planning, looking forward to (or dreading) the Christmas holidays. But should we go ahead with them? If you look to the government for clear direction, it’s even foggier this morning than it has been.

Mardi Boris Johnson – once nicknamed a Merrie England Tory, and obviously on the hedonistic end of the government spectrum – said parties should move forward. “We don’t want people to cancel such events,” he said at his press conference on Tuesday.

Last night Thérèse Coffey, the secretary for work and pensions, proposed a nuanced alternative. Christmas should come, she told ITV’s Peston show, but said it was best to avoid “smooching under the mistletoe.” When asked for clarification about kissing, she replied, “Well, not with people you don’t already know! “

But this morning Georges Freeman proposed an alternative. Freeman is science minister in the business department, and so maybe he’s more at the end of the spectrum of evidence-based government (or at the end of the poop, as they would put it in the Covid Recovery Group). He told the Today program that while small businesses might want to throw a Christmas party, large businesses might prefer to rethink. He said:

Sole proprietorships, at the end of the day, must make judgments about what is appropriate internally. It depends a bit on the nature of the business. For many small businesses, four or five employees, who work together every day anyway, getting together for drinks isn’t a big risk.
But some companies could normally bring hundreds of people from all over the world to a big party, and they could decide, this year, is that reasonable given the pandemic and given where we are at? At the end of the day, I think business people know how to make these decisions.

But Freeman also said his own parliamentary team – which is not a team of hundreds – will do its job on Zoom. He told LBC:

I can tell you that my parliamentary team and I normally have a Christmas party. We decided this year that it was probably a good idea to do it through Zoom and wait until spring. It won’t be the best party in the world.

We’ll have a lobby briefing later, and it’ll be interesting to see if Freeman gets the Jenny Harries treatment on what he said.

If you are confused you should probably make your own decision which seems to be what the government thinks people should be doing anyway. Alternatively, you can try the approach # 10 seems to have taken – which is to throw a party, but pretend you didn’t.

Here is the program for the day.

9h30 : ONS publishes report on the long Covid.

10h : George Eustice, Secretary of the Environment, delivers a speech at the Country Land & Business Association conference. At 11:15 am, he held a press conference.

After 10:30 am: Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the Commons, answers Commons questions on next week’s business.

11:30 am: Downing Street is holding a lobby briefing.

After 11:30 am: Chris Bryant, Chairman of the House of Commons Standards Committee, makes a statement in the House of Commons on his committee’s new report proposing changes to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.

14h : UK Health Security Agency publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.

And at some point, Boris Johnson will receive his booster shot. And Keir Starmer is visiting an offshore platform in the North Sea.

I will cover the UK Covid developments here, as well as the non-Covid policy, but for global Covid developments read our Global Live Blog.

I am trying to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a straightforward question, include “Andrew” somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I try to answer the questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and answer over the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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