Steve Reed has warned that the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions to allow for increased household mixing over the Christmas period due to start next week could result in a “massive hangover” in the New Year.
Discussing the plans, which the Prime Minister has so far rejected calls from scientists to cancel, the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary advised caution as he reflected on the possible ramifications.
He said: “The last thing that any of us want is to have a free-for-all over Christmas that then results in a massive hangover in January when we look back and wonder why we allowed it to go ahead in that way.
“Particularly if we end up with the NHS being overwhelmed with patients again, particularly if we end up in a protracted lockdown in the New Year with all the damage that will do to people’s health, lives and livelihoods, and the economy.”
His comments come as government minister Robert Jenrick has made clear that the onus on keeping transmission of the virus down over the next two weeks will be placed on the public as the government refuses to U-turn on the plans.
The Communities and Local Government Secretary said during an interview with Sky News this morning that “Easter could be the new Christmas for many people”, but told viewers “it is a matter for you to come to your own judgement”.
He also protested that the government “can’t legislate for every eventuality”. Under the current rules defined by the government, people from different households are not currently allowed to mix indoors in Tier 2 or 3.
A snap country-wide YouGov poll suggested 57% of respondents believed the relaxation of Covid rules over Christmas should be dropped and only 31% said the easing of rules over the festive period should go ahead.
Keir Starmer called for an emergency COBRA meeting to urgently review the rules on Tuesday and warned the Prime Minister that “doing nothing is not really viable” amid rising concerns over a surge in the number of Covid cases.