Christmas: SNP’s Philippa Whitford discusses COVID rules
Dr Philippa Whitford has hinted that rules could change at Christmas as coronavirus cases have rapidly increased. Boris Johnson is resisting growing pressure to scrap the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas amid warnings the move could overwhelm the NHS and contribute to the loss of “many lives”. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will resume crisis talks over the plans for up to three households to mix between December 23 and 27 with leaders of the devolved administrations on Wednesday morning.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Ms Whitford said: “It was likely there would be travel right across the UK at Christmas, it was obviously ideal if there could be a UK-wide agreement.
“But there was some slight variation where in Scotland only one of the three households could already be an extended bubble.
“We have a limit on eight people who are over 12.
“There isn’t a number limit in England of in the other countries.”
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She added: “These decisions were made a few weeks ago when cases were falling, the lockdowns seemed to be working and there was hope that the cases would continue to fall.
“They are now rising right across the UK, there’s huge variation and indeed this new variant down in the southeast.
“To suddenly encourage people to be setting off right across the UK, I can totally understand why public health experts are saying you need to stop, you need to rethink and there shouldn’t be any shame in that.
“When something changes, you stop and rethink and decide is this what we really should be doing.”
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A UK Government source acknowledged the four UK nations may take differing approaches, but insisted there would be no change in the law for the festive freedoms in England.
Instead it was said that the leaders would continue discussions on strengthening warnings, including advising people to stay local and reconsider whether they should spend Christmas with the elderly and clinically vulnerable.
Talks began on Tuesday after two leading medical journals warned that a lessening of restrictions would “cost many lives”, and the British Medical Association echoed Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, in demanding an urgent rethink.
They will resume as nearly 10.8 million more people begin living under the toughest restrictions when London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3.
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With 61 percent of England’s population now living under the strictest measures, ministers were due to formally review what tiers are appropriate for each area.
After Mr Gove’s first round of talks, a UK Government source said: “There are no plans to change the regulations in England.” But the source added they are “keen to maintain a UK-wide approach”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier argued there is a case for reducing the planned freedoms to combat a rise in infections and indicated she could break with the four-nation approach.
She told the Scottish Parliament: “I do think there is a case for us looking at whether we tighten the flexibilities that were given any further, both in terms of duration and numbers of people meeting.”
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