In Brief

Coronavirus: will Christmas travel lead to ‘super-spreader’ event?

Prime minister warned ‘thousands will die’ if five-day relaxation of Covid rules over holiday goes ahead

The government’s relaxation of Covid-19 rules over Christmas may lead to a “super-spreader” event that will claim thousands of lives, experts are warning.

Boris Johnson told a press conference yesterday that the public should keep their festive celebrations “short” and “small”. But he refused to rethink his plan to relax restrictions between 23 and 27 December, despite growing fears about the potential consequences.

Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, says that relaxing the rules “will, without doubt, cost lives, and the impact on the NHS in the New Year will be grave”.

Senior ministers and scientific advisers are also “being pretty open about their concerns” about the government’s plans, says Politico’s London Playbook. According to the website, the Department for Transport has held contingency planning exercises in response to worries about overcrowded carriages on Britain’s trains.

Meanwhile, The Guardian’s Rafael Behr argues that “if the prime minister was a faithful lover of evidence, he would not relax pandemic regulations for the festive season.

“If he only has eyes for the rate of coronavirus infections he would not have issued a special five-day licence for household mingling; not while the lines on the graphs are all pointing in the wrong direction.”

Over in The Times, David Aaronovitch accuses Johnson of “incredible stupidity” and warns that unless the PM agrees to be “the Christmas Grinch, thousands of people are going to die”.

Not everybody is so damning about the rules let-up, however.

The Telegraph’s Sherelle Jacobs praises Johnson’s “sensible clarifications” about keeping celebrations small, and claims that people have become “irrationally petrified of committing accidental manslaughter against their elderly relatives”.

Indeed, the “Covid Christmas miracle has mutated into a farce”, she adds.

Back in Downing Street, ministers are reported to be anxious about the political price that may also be paid for the temporary easing of Covid restrictions.

An unnamed “worried insider” told London Playbook that “the government is going to be held accountable for everyone who catches Covid and dies over the Christmas period”.

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