Boris Johnson’s Tory government is sticking to its advice about the five-day ‘bubbles’ into which families will be allowed to go while they celebrate Christmas.
But ministers are warning that people should do “the minimum that is possible” over the festive period.
What the hell does that mean?
Meanwhile, new threats are arising with the discovery of a new strain of the Coronavirus, most heavily concentrated in London and the South East.
Is it a coincidence that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are going into Tier 3 restrictions from midnight today (December 15-16)?
The number of cases of the virus there has been found to have risen, even while cases elsewhere were falling during the English lockdown in November.
Up to three households will be permitted to meet – in ‘bubbles’ – for five days over Christmas. But the government is saying people will have to make their own judgements about the amount of contact they have.
And the matter will be kept under review.
The discovery of the new strain of the virus was announced by Death Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
BREAKING—“New variant" (mutation) of #SARSCoV2 has been identified, believed to be causing faster spread, UK Health Secretary said. Its spread is growing faster than existing variant, w/ over 1,000 cases found, "predominantly in south of England". #COVID19https://t.co/nllDlurCcz pic.twitter.com/I27Qp3TVqb
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) December 14, 2020
He seems to think that although it is faster-spreading, it is no more harmful than the established strain and he expects the current vaccine to be effective against it.
Those are very large assumptions.
And there are concerns that ministers are divorced from the realities of the situation.
A Guardian leader article has warned that the government’s attitude to schools shows a failure to understand the ongoing threat:
Just last week the schools minister, Nick Gibb, wrote to the headteacher of a school in Ware, Hertfordshire, warning that the government could use its powers under the Coronavirus Act to prevent schools such as his from carrying out plans to send most pupils home before the end of term and switch to remote learning.
In a similar vein, suggestions from unions that schools might operate remotely at the start of next term, in order to decrease the chances that contacts over the festive period could lead to a spike in infections, were rebuffed.
Yet school leaders, and councils including Greenwich, that have asked headteachers to switch to remote learning for the final few days of term, appear more in touch than ministers with the realities – and risks – of the situation they have created, by promising the public that get-togethers of up to three families could go ahead over the festive period.
It remains unclear how Boris Johnson and his cabinet became convinced that closing schools for just the usual fortnight could be considered compatible with a plan to relax the pandemic restrictions below even the tier 1 level, under which gatherings of people who do not live together, and are not part of the same support bubble, are limited to six.
Throughout the Covid crisis, Hancock, his boss Boris Johnson, and their minions have been wrong – on an epic scale that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
They claimed their decisions were “based on the science” when in fact the underlying motive was the maintenance of a national economy that has been harmed more by their poor leadership than by the virus itself.
Now they stand poised to make another terrible mistake – and to make the rest of us pay the cost. Again.
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