At the height of the pandemic, should the holiday season be preserved? The case represents pressure on the British government, which came under fire for its muddled guidance after it organized a meeting of its officials in 2020, when celebrations were banned.
Although the emergence of the omicron variant led to the rapid introduction of new health restrictions at the border, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to continue their lives “as before”, without changing their plans for Christmas.
“We don’t want people to feel the need to start canceling things” like get-togethers, he said Thursday after injecting a booster dose of the Covid vaccine.
His spokesman insisted that “there are no rules forbidding the celebration of Christmas”, with many beginning to question the advisability of traditional celebrations among employees.
Not all members of the government see this alike.
One of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, with 145,000 deaths, the UK has so far detected around 40 omicron cases of the coronavirus.
In response, the conservative executive expanded its vaccination campaign and returned to imposing the use of masks in transportation and stores, but not in theaters or restaurants whose owners fear a wave of cancellations during the strongest period of the year on the sector.
– ‘Confused’ and ‘incoherent’ –
Some bars, which record a large portion of their sales at corporate Christmas parties, are already experiencing cancellations. The network’s young director, Patrick Dardis, blamed “confused and incoherent government messaging” along with concerns that a workplace party would later deprive employees of reunification with their families.
The foreign minister advised residents to “avoid social interaction” and “an hour later” the health minister, Sajid David, said “otherwise,” he deplored.
Johnson advocated a “balanced and proportionate approach to risk”.
“This year’s Christmas will be much better than last year,” when the entire country was on the verge of third containment.
These criticisms are added to the accusations against the prime minister of holding two Downing Street concerts in December 2020, where he prevented others from meeting indoors.
According to the Daily Mail, between 40 and 50 people attended a Christmas party and a farewell party, at which Johnson gave a speech.
When questioned by opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer in Parliament, the president did not deny that festivities were taking place, but emphasized that “all recommendations have been followed”.
“The prime minister thinks the British are stupid,” Starmer criticized. Scottish National Representative Ian Blackford accused Johnson of having “a rule for himself and a rule for everyone else”.
Johnson confirmed that a meeting will be held in Downing Street this year. But George Freeman, head of the Economy Department, told Radio Times that his department was “not going to throw a big party”.
It was up to each company “to judge what is appropriate”, he told the BBC, calling for common sense.
“Four or five employees working together every day and getting together for a drink are not a big risk,” he reasoned, in contrast to the “big parties” of “hundreds of people” organized by some companies, which are not necessarily “reasonable, given the situation.”
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