Updated: Relaxation of Christmas rules ‘unlikely to change’ but talks between devolved nations will to continue today
Updated: Wales will move to the highest level of coronavirus measures.
First Minister Drakeford has said the number of households who can ‘bubble’ over the Christmas has been reduced from three to two.
“Later today, we will publish joint advice across the UK, explaining that a smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas.”
“That a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.”
“Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period.”
“The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.”
None of us wants to be ill this Christmas. And we don’t want to give coronavirus to our close family or friends.”
He said the “clear message from the Welsh Government is that only two households should meet.”
Earlier report: Talks over plans to relax coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period will resume today between ministers from the devolved administrations and UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove.
Under the current plans, three households will be able to meet and form a “bubble” between 23 and 27 December.
The planned easing of restrictions over the Christmas period are “unlikely to change” according to BBC sources.
They say “sterner warnings about the dangers of mixing over Christmas are to be issued by the four UK nations later – but the rules allowing three households to meet are expected to remain in place.”
On Tuesday Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford said in the Senedd earlier today, the four nation agreement to relax rules between 23 and 27 December – allowing families to “bubble” with two other households – “was a hard won agreement, that he “will not likely put it aside.”
He said: “The choices are grim, I have read in my own email account over the last couple of days heart rendering pleas from people not to reverse what we have agreed for Christmas.”
“People who live entirely alone, who have made arrangements to be with people for the first time in many months and who say to me that this is the only thing that they have been able to look forward to in recent weeks.”
“We will look at the figures again together, I still think that the arguments for having a rule based approach to Christmas, modestly increased amounts of freedom for people but where they know where the rules lie, is preferable.”
Calls have been made for Christmas COVID-19 rules to be reversed across the nation.
Unite the union, which represents over 100,000 health workers, has backed a call by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that the government’s plans to relax social distancing rules over Christmas (from 23-27 December) should be dropped, to help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed in the new year by a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Unite says it is “highly concerned that hospitals are already running close to capacity and that they threaten to be overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 cases.”
The Union says: “Unite members are already reporting long waits occurring at A&E departments.
The Christmas relaxation could result in far more NHS workers being exposed to the virus or being required to self-isolate placing further pressure on hospitals.”
It says: “The problem is being made worse as bank staff (NHS workers undertaking additional shifts) are being moved from covering hospital shifts into vaccination programmes.”
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “No one wants to be a Grinch at Christmas but relaxing the rules for five days is a dangerous folly.
“If the government goes ahead with its plans all the hard work will be thrown out of the window and a surge in Covid cases could result in the NHS being overwhelmed.
“January is always the busiest time of year for the NHS and if action is not taken now, Unite members working in the NHS do not believe it will be able to cope.
“The blame for this looming fiasco must fall at the door of the government.
“The pandemic has already stretched the capacity of the NHS. The BMJ/HSJ report says the number of patients waiting over a year for non-urgent treatment has risen from a few hundred to 160,000. It will take years to reduce waiting times and the cost could be further suffering, physical and psychological anguish and loss of life.
“The government is guilty of once again providing mixed messages, telling people to abide by the tier system but that there is no need to follow it at Christmas.
“For once the government must put the NHS first and follow the science and accept it made the wrong initial call about Christmas meetings.
“A failure to do so will result in a surge of Covid cases, unnecessary suffering and needless loss of life.”
According to a Public Health Wales survey 66 percent of people said they are planning to either have visitors to their home or visit other people’s homes over the Christmas period (23rd-27thDecember).
45 percent of people said they are intending to form a Christmas bubble and 53percent of people think the changes being made to restrictions over Christmas are about right; 31% would prefer tighter restrictions and 15% would prefer more relaxed restrictions.
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