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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Govt to Let Britons Have Christmas Freedom for a ‘Small Number of Days’

After months of the British government sending signals that it may maintain lockdown or strict social distancing rules over December, effectively cancelling family Christmases, the Cabinet Office has said that Britons may have their festivities “for a small number of days”.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove held meetings with the leaders of the devolved governments of Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland on Saturday, promoting the “four nations” approach over the holy period where Britons would be allowed “some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”.

In a statement released on Sunday, Number 10 said, according to Sky News, that “the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce his “COVID Winter Plan” on Monday afternoon, where he will confirm that while England’s second lockdown is due to end on December 2nd, regional tiered social distancing rules will come back into force. Non-essential shops will resume trading so that people can do Christmas shopping, while the 10 pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be extended until 11 pm and gyms and outdoor venues will be allowed to reopen.

Earlier remarks from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Public Health England said that such ‘freedom’ would come at a price. Claiming that every day off lockdown needs to be balanced by another five in, a proposed five-day break would result in a third lockdown for most of January.

Members of the Conservative Party have criticised the government’s handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, specifically over the draconian lockdown’s effect on British business and the effect of the wider health of citizens. Writing on the Daily Mail on Monday, the former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that while the country is set to come out of lockdown next week, the tiered system to be reimposed “will be a hammer blow for shops and restaurants”.

Mr Duncan Smith also remarked that the government’s scientific team has yet to publish “convincing evidence” why “these stringent restrictions should be implemented”.

“Many of us at Westminster have grave concerns about the quality of the advice being given to the Prime Minister, not least because of the seismic consequences of decisions made on the back of it.

“When the first lockdown came, we were told it would only last a few weeks. Instead, it lasted months. The result was that our economy fell by 10 per cent, the worst performance for 300 years, with huge numbers of people dying for lack of health treatment for non-Covid conditions,” said the Brexiteer.

Around 70 Conservative backbenchers are expected to rebel against the prime minister over the reimposition of the restrictions unless the government releases evidence that the laws are working and “save more lives than they cost”.

In a letter written by Steve Baker and Mark Halper of the COVID Recovery Group and signed by around 70 MPs and a dozen Peers, the signatories urge Prime Minister Johnson: “It’s vital to remember that even the tiered system of restrictions infringes deeply upon people’s lives with huge health and economic costs.”

“We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood,” the group added in the letter seen by The Times.

However, even if all 70 Tories rebel at the House of Commons vote on the measure next week, Prime Minister Johnson would be able to pass it with the support of the Labour Party, which remains in support of restricting Britons’ freedom.


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