7 different bits of Omicron Christmas party advice as Brits face ‘lockdown by stealth’



Boris Johnson is accused of imposing a “lockdown by stealth” after telling Brits to “be cautious” – but not cancelling events or bailing out pubs.

The Prime Minister and his Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty urged different degrees of caution at a press briefing as the Omicron variant rips through the UK – with a record 88,376 new Covid cases yesterday alone.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of the UK Health Security Agency, told MPs: “The R value of Omicron is estimated to be much higher [than Delta], very broad brush estimates of between 3 and 5.”

And Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said it was “entirely possible” the Omicron wave could beat the previous record of 4,583 people entering hospital on one day.

But what exactly should we all do about it?

Aside from some measures like face masks in shops and transport, and Covid passes in venues, the UK government has brought in very few legal restrictions to clamp down on the spread of disease.

Instead, guidance in England urges people to work from home and take a test before social contact, but parties, family gatherings, weddings and so forth can all go ahead.

People are urged to “prioritise” events they most want to go to and “de-prioritise” others, to avoid being in isolation with the illness over Christmas.

As usual, into the void has flooded a confusing array of advice. We take you through it…

Prof Chris Whitty said it was sensible to prioritise the social interactions that matter
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‘Don’t mix with people you don’t have to’

Prof Chris Whitty said it was sensible to prioritise the social interactions that matter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

The Chief Medical Officer for England pointed out many people are going to be infected with Omicron if they socialise, so there was a choice about how much to do.

“Don’t mix with people you don’t have to for either work or for the sort of family things that really matter to you, would be my general advice,” he said. “But people have to make their own choices”.

He added: “I think what most people are doing, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them.

“And, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.

“I think that’s going to become increasingly important as we, for example, go into the Christmas period.”

He later insisted: “I wouldn’t want to say to people they should do this or that – this is about saying to people this is a period to prioritise. This was a message the Prime Minister also said last night.”

‘We’re not cancelling events’

“Go to work, don’t go to work, don’t don’t have a Christmas party”, says Boris Johnson
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Boris Johnson emphasised “we’re not cancelling events”, and merely told people to “think carefully before you go”, wear masks and take a test.

Later however he backed Prof Whitty’s message, saying people were free to go to parties – “if that’s a priority” to them.

He said: “What we have is the additional protection of the vaccines, and the ability to test.

“So if you want to do something, if you want to go to an event or a party, then the sensible thing to do, if that’s a priority, the sensible thing to do is to get a test and to make sure that you’re being cautious.

“But we’re not saying that we want to cancel stuff, we’re not locking stuff down, and the fastest route back to normality is to get boosted.”

‘Space out a bit if you can’ and ‘stick to people you know’

Health Minister Gillian Keegan said people can “definitely” go ahead with dinner parties – but “space out a bit if you can.”

The top Tory also urged hosts to “get everyone to get a lateral flow test before they come”.

Speaking to LBC she added: “Open the windows, you know, be cautious, but you can still do that.

“I still intend to have some events, you know, but just be cautious and definitely take a test.”

Ms Keegan also claimed people should “try to mix with people you already know”.

Health Minister Gillian Keegan said people can “definitely” go ahead with dinner parties – but “space out a bit if you can”
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She said: “If you’re going to go to a party… if that’s your priority, fine.

“If your priority is to make it through to Christmas Day with your family, take a different approach.”

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “There is no set government guidance on social distancing.

“The minister was making a point I think the public are all aware of when it comes to how an airborne virus like… this transmissible variant is spread.

“It’s something I’m sure the public will take heed of, as they will with things like opening a window and crucially getting tested.”

‘If you’re going to a stadium, make it a booster trip’

Dr Nikki Kanani, director of primary care at NHS England, said she was “already scaling back” her Christmas plans – and people should choose vaccines over sports at a stadium.

She told a No10 press conference: “My advice would be if you’re going to go to a stadium at the weekend, make it one where you can get your vaccine or help out to give a vaccine, rather than going to watch a match.”

Downing Street had announced mass vaccination centres would open at Wembley Stadium and at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, within days.

No10 rebuffed the comments, saying: “Like Professor Whitty and the Prime Minister, she’s not being prescriptive. We understand it’s a personal choice for the public.

“And there’s no restrictions on those sorts of events, obviously, apart from the use of the Covid pass which provides a level of reassurance and protection.”

Asked if the Government was telling fans not to attend matches, he said: “That is not our advice.”

Dr Nikki Kanani said people should choose vaccines over sports at a stadium
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‘Get a lateral flow test and a booster and you’re good to go’

Grant Shapps claimed “this Christmas will be a good deal happier than last year.”

The Transport Secretary encouraged people in England to carry on with festive events, as long as they’ve had both a lateral flow test before they go, and a booster jab.

He said: “We want people to be sensible but to enjoy their Christmas.

“We’re not saying to people to cancel their Christmases or their Christmas parties or getting together with their friends and families.

“But please take the lateral flow test, don’t go if you feel ill, get your third jab and you’re good to go.”

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‘Limit socialising to two other households… if you’re in Scotland’

Nicola Sturgeon has told Scots to limit indoor socialising to a maximum of two other households at a time in the run-up to Christmas.

The First Minister said new “strong guidance” was needed to curb the spread of Covid as Scotland faces a “tsunami” of Omicron cases.

Although the crackdown is guidance not law, it is the first time UK social gatherings have been restricted since Spring.

The restrictions on socialising will not apply on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

No10 said it was not making the same recommendation in England – for now. But a spokesman said Boris Johnson was “carefully reviewing on a daily basis” and MPs might not get a vote on any new guidance unless it’s the law.

‘In England, I will be taking my team out for lunch’

A Treasury minister insisted he will take his team out for lunch on Monday.

Conservative frontbencher John Glen told MPs: “I think the advice is clear. One should get boosted as quickly as possible, as I did on Saturday.

“Take the lateral flow tests and act responsibly, and I should be taking my team out in Salisbury on Monday for lunch.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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