So, we are still waiting.
The four UK administrations will resume talks today, after failing to reach an agreement on whether the relaxation of Christmas Covid-19 restrictions should be maintained, amended or scrapped entirely. For those of us who have followed the UK-EU pantomime in recent weeks, this was all wearingly familiar.
According to The Times this morning, there are some differences of opinion between leaders. UK prime minister Boris Johnson is seemingly determined to push on, whereas Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon reportedly suggested some tightening, such as a reduction in the number of households allowed to meet. They will reconvene at 10am today.
Pressure for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reopen the issue has been building. Yesterday, we saw only the second ever joint editorial between the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal, calling for plans to allow household mixing over the festive season to be scrapped. Meanwhile, polls from YouGov and IPSOS-Mori showed a majority of the public in favour of continuing current restrictions between 23-27 December.
Maybe a number of these respondents are giving the “correct” view to the polling companies, whilst secretly hoping for current plans to be maintained, however it is clear that the “Save our Christmas!” bravado of some British press outlets is not an opinion universally shared.
There is real fear out there about what unfettered travel and larger gatherings could do for wider public health, and for our NHS, in the weeks ahead. Others may counter that, in a year that has already been so trying for so many, the mental health implications of taking away what was promised will be a tipping point.
This is a horrible position for all UK administrations to be in, and I believe they do deserve our sympathy as they try to navigate a no-win situation. Case surges across the four nations, especially in Wales and the south of England, suggest to some that respective restrictions were lifted too early before Christmas. An uptick in rule-breaking during these more dangerous winter months has also apparently played a role.
Therefore, what was a UK-wide approach to Christmas may not stand entirely firm. The potential for cross-border discrepancies, and perhaps yet more inter-governmental rows, is significant. We should find out later today the extent to which millions of Christmas plans go back to the drawing board. Someone pass the port.