Yet again, you’d be forgiven for being confused about Covid rules.
Omicron’s popularity prompted the government to impose new laws in England on travel testing and face masks.
This triggered a tsunami of ‘freelancing’ advice from ministers and a top official that wasn’t government policy.
No10 was forced to deny that the Cabinet is at odds amid a flurry conflicting comments.
Officially, the government’s Covid advice in England is as follows.
It’s a legal requirement to wear a face mask (unless exempt) in shops, public transport, banks and hair salons.
It’s also a legal requirement for all arrivals in the UK to get a Day 2 PCR test and isolate until it is negative.
And it’s a legal requirement to isolate for 10 days if you’re a close contact of a suspected Omicron case – even if you’re vaccinated.
However, it’s not a legal requirement to cut down on gatherings or close contact, work from home, or reduce travel. Masks also aren’t a legal requirement in hospitality venues.
Guidance is voluntary. “strongly recommends”A mask is worn by people. “in crowded and enclosed spaces, where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.”
Guidance is also about people “may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test”In certain circumstances, Covid may be required. These include on days when they’ll be “spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces, or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19.”
With that out of the way, let’s see what the Tory ministers (and an advisor to it) have been saying. Let us take you through.
‘Don’t snog under the mistletoe, much’
Therese Coffey, Cabinet Minister, said that Brits should not smooch strangers at Christmas.
“I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe,” the Work and Pensions Secretary told ITV’s Robert Peston.
“You don’t have to do these things. But I think we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible, and of course continuing to encourage people who haven’t been vaccinated at all yet, to come forward, recognising that we’re still trying to understand the impact of Omicron.”
Asking if it should. “just no snogging?”She responded: “Well, not with people you don’t already know!”
No10 said of Ms Coffey’s comments: “It is down to individuals to use their personal judgement”.
‘Companies may cancel big Christmas parties’
When George Freeman, Science Minister, appeared to contradict No10 and his bosses, he became Mr Freelance
He stated: “For many small businesses, four or five staff working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn’t a big step up in risk.
“But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people around the world to a big party.
“And they may decide this year ‘is that sensible?’, given the pandemic and given where we are.”
Boris Johnson ’s official spokesman responded: “On Christmas parties, we don’t want people to cancel such events.
“There is no government guidance to that end.
Tayfun Salci / Avalon)
“It’s right that post Step Four we return to the position were people can use their individual judgement.”
Mr. Freeman also stated that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will not be holding a conference. “big”Christmas bash
However, his words came after Kwasi Kwarteng the Secretary of State said that a party had been booked.
Source from the Business Department “different teams do different things”No single party was planned for the BEIS.
‘Maybe take a lateral flow test, I might wear a mask’
Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, was close to the official guidance. But that only showed how vague it really is.
He said there wasn’t “any need to change” Covid rules, but said he’d take a lateral flow test before going to a Christmas party.
“If you are invited to a Christmas party, there’s quite a few people there, maybe you want to take an LFT before you go,” he said.
“You should go to the party, but you need to be careful.
AFP via Getty Images
Asked if he’d wear a mask at the party he replied: “Maybe.
“It depends if I’m walking around or sitting down – it depends. If I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.”
Mr Javid supported the Prime Minister and urged people to “follow the existing guidance and be sensible about that.”
The official spokesperson of the Prime Minister stated: “I think he was very clear about what he was saying.
“He stated that we have significant testing capabilities and that people could get additional assurance from that.”
‘Go to nativity plays – but obviously wear a mask’
Care Minister Gillian Keegan encouraged parents to attend school events – but added they should “obviously” follow non-mandatory guidance.
Asked about nativity plays, she replied: “I think we’ve said go about your plans.
“I mean, obviously wear a mask, be cautious, you know, all the things that people usually put in place, to be honest.
“I think most people have been sensible all along, but we’re not saying to people cancel your plans and I’m sure it would be lovely to go to a nativity play right now.”
Asked if Christmas would be “ruined”, Ms Keegan replied: “Hopefully not”.
‘Try not socialising when you don’t need to’
Dr Jenny Harries is the odd one out in this list as she’s a non-political scientific advisor to the government, not a Tory minister.
But the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) triggered the whole row earlier this week with her comments.
She said working from home could be a “key” element of controlling a possible surge in future – despite No10 resisting the measure.
She also said “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to” over Christmas could keep the virus at bay.
She stated to BBC: “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way.
“This is because if we all reduce our social contact a bit, it helps to keep the variant at bay.
“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jabs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”
Boris Johnson rejected the advice directly, adding: “On Christmas parties and nativity plays, we don’t want people to cancel such events.”
‘We’re not in Plan B yet and don’t cancel anything’
Lastly we come to Boris Johnson, who despite enacting mask laws has insisted we’re still not in his Plan B for winter.
He insisted that people should not cancel anything, and should only follow the instructions.
Even though it is said “what Jenny’s saying there is right”He immediately rejected her advice. When asked if he agreed to her advice, he replied: “The answer is no.”
The PM was also added: “We’re not going to change the overall guidance, we don’t think that’s necessary.
“We don’t see anything to suggest that we need to go for instance to Plan B, but what we do need to do is take particular precautions against Omicron until we’ve worked out exactly what kind of a threat it may present.”