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November 21, 2020

Hancock urges social distancing at Christmas

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P
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November 21, 2020

LONDON: Matt Hancock has appeared to rule out hugging relatives and friends at Christmas, as he said there are “promising signs” the current lockdown in England is working.

The Health Secretary said rules will still need to be in place over the festive period, with people observing social distancing as families come together.

It comes as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told LBC radio the police would break up house parties but had “no interest in interrupting family Christmas dinners.”

Speaking on Times Radio, Hancock said discussions with the devolved nations are continuing with the aim of reaching agreement on how families can celebrate the festive period. He said there is a need to “respect the fact that we mustn’t spread the virus further but also respect the fact that Christmas is a special time where people get together, especially with their families”.

Hancock added: “It’s about getting the balance right and allowing people to have a Christmas that undoubtedly will be different this year but still try to have that cherished Christmas with your family as much as possible.

“What we want to have is a set of rules that is, if at all possible, consistent across the four nations of the UK, not least because so many people travel to see their family at Christmas time, but also respects the fact that we must follow social distancing to keep the virus under control. “I’ve got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout, because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Hancock said this Christmas “won’t be fully normal”, adding “there will have to be rules, unfortunately, to keep the virus under control”.

Dismissing the idea that it should be up to families to decide their own rules for Christmas, Hancock said people could pass the virus on without knowing it.

Earlier, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had held discussions with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the first ministers of the other devolved administrations on Wednesday about a UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions, with another meeting planned next week.

Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season is “top of the list of things to agree”, even if a wider agreement is not possible.

It comes as Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said it is “still too early to tell” if the current lockdown will have the “consistent effect” needed. In a blog post calling for the NHS to be protected, he added: “There is a real risk that in our desire to celebrate Christmas, we swap a few days of celebration for the misery of a full third wave a few weeks later.”

Meanwhile, Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government, said there is reason for optimism that the national lockdown in England will push Covid case numbers to a low level before Christmas.

He told Today there is “encouraging evidence coming from the north-west of England” with “a plateauing of cases in the community and a slight downturn in cases coming into hospital”.