The Prime Minister has written to allay the fears of children across the country by confirming Father
‘Dear Mr Johnson, I am eight years old and I was wondering if you and the government had thought about Santa coming this Christmas,’ wrote Monti.
‘If we leave hand sanitiser by the cookies can he come? Or will he wash his hands? I understand you are very busy but can you and the scientists please talk about this.’
Mr Johnson shared his letter of reply on Twitter, adding that he had received ‘lots of letters about this’ and had consulted with experts about the issue.
‘I have put in a call to the North Pole and I can tell you Father Christmas is ready and raring to go, as are Rudolph and all of the other reindeer,’ wrote the Prime Minister.
‘The Chief Medical Officer has asked me to tell you that, provided Father Christmas behaves in his usual responsible way and works quickly and safely, there are no risks to your health or his.’
Mr Johnson also praised Monti’s idea to put hand sanitiser next to any treats left for Father Christmas.
‘Using it yourself, and washing your hands regularly, is exactly the kind of thing that will get you and your friends on the nice list,’ he wrote.
Boris Johnson set out the rules Santa must follow in reply to a message from eight-year-old Monti, who had written to the PM asking for clarity on the subject and the help of the UK’s top scientific minds
‘I have put in a call to the North Pole and I can tell you Father Christmas is ready and raring to go, as are Rudolph and all of the other reindeer,’ wrote the Prime Minister
Mr Johnson is the latest leader to confirm to the nation’s children that Father Christmas will not be stopped by coronavirus.
In October, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to make a promise to Scottish children that Santa would still deliver their Christmas presents – after her top medical advisor said hopes of a traditional festive gathering were a ‘fiction’.
The First Minister joked that her national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch would be portrayed as the Grinch on newspaper front pages after he said families should prepare to see loved ones over Zoom because of coronavirus.
She attempted to play down the significance of his remarks at her daily press conference today as she came under increasing fire over a five-tier lockdown system set to be even tougher than Boris Johnson’s in England.
The First Minister has been hit with a wave of anger after it emerged she wants to take a harsher approach than the PM, with more levels of curbs to tackle the pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon was faced by a barrage of questions as she faced the media, after Prof Leitch told BBC Scotland this morning that while there may be some ‘normality’ over Christmas, ‘we’re not going to have large family groupings with multiple families around, that is fiction for this year’.
After a question about Santas having to use Zoom in their grottos across the country, she turned to the camera and said: ‘On Santa, if there are any kids watching: Santa will not be prevented from delivering your presents on Christmas Eve, Santa is a key worker and he has got lots of magic powers that make him safe to do that.
‘If he is having to do Grotto appearances by Zoom, that is to keep you safe, it is not because he is at any risk. Santa will be delivering presents across the world as normal.’
She added: ‘Since I’m spending so much time responding to Jason’s comments today, I should make him dress up as the Grinch for Halloween and do a briefing to cheer everybody up.’
It came as a Sage scientist warned Boris Johnson’s three-home Christmas bubbles are a ‘recipe for regret’ that will ‘throw fuel on the Covid fire’ and spark a deadly third wave.
Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care Professor Andrew Hayward claimed the five days of festive freedom will ‘lead to increase transmission’, ‘hospitals being overrun and unnecessary deaths’.
He admitted ‘you cannot ban’ the holiday but called for clearer messaging on the ‘dangers of social mixing’ and advised Britons to ‘wait that little bit longer’ and ‘be patient’.
Three households will be allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ over the festive period after politicians across the UK agreed to ease draconian curbs and give hard-pressed families respite from coronavirus rules.
A four-nation meeting of the Cobra emergency committee yesterday afternoon agreed plans to allow extended families and friends to meet without social distancing within exclusive groups.
How will government decide what Tiers areas are put into?
Boris Johnson has said the government will be ‘common-sensical’ about putting areas in Tiers, and his ‘Winter Plan’ set out a series of metrics that will be used to make the decision. They are:
- Case detection rates in all age groups;
- Case detection rates in the over 60s;
- The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
- Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and
- Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.
However, there are no specific trigger thresholds for coming in or out of Tiers. And the document added that there will be ‘flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’.
‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients,’ the document said.
‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities.’
The relaxed measures will be in place from Wednesday December 23 to Sunday December 27, paving the way for families in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to meet up.
In England, those already in ‘support bubbles’ with vulnerable or lonely relatives living elsewhere will count as one household under the new rules – extending the size of potential gatherings.
Travel across tiers in England will also be allowed, as will journeys between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But in a blow for the hospitality industry, the Christmas bubbles will only be allowed to meet up in private homes, places of worship and in outdoor public spaces.
Rules for pubs, restaurants and other venues will remain the same under whichever tier they find themselves in at the time.
The Christmas agreement was made between Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the First Ministers of the devolved governments.
Mr Gove struck an upbeat tone as he said the move will ‘offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year’.
But Boris Johnson and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford were both more cautious, with the PM posting a video on his Twitter saying ‘the virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful’.
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon earlier suggested the Christmas respite from coronavirus lockdown would not be exactly the same in Scotland.
Prof Hayward told Newsnight: ‘I think what the government have done is really give the green light to give families to get together over Christmas, and effectively what this would be doing is throwing fuel on the Covid fire.
‘And think will definitely lead to increase transmission and likely lead to third wave of infections with hospitals being overrun, and more unnecessary deaths.
‘Covid- 19 is a disease that thrives on social contact – especially the sorts of close proximity, long duration contact that you have in relaxed circumstances within a household.
‘It’s a virus that’s dangerous for older people. We are still in a country where we’ve got high levels of infection of Covid, particularly in young people. Bringing them together for hours let alone days with elderly relatives, I think is a recipe for regret for many families.’
‘All families have a choice here. My personal choice would be to wait safely there is a vaccine coming. I would get together with my family when they’ve been vaccinated and have a proper get together at Christmas in Easter for many other Christmases to come.
‘I think the danger is with vaccine on the way with highly successfully if we are not careful over Christmas we are in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on this one.
‘I can see you cannot ban Christmas, but I think what you can do is you can provide clear messages to families about the dangers, about the dangers of inter-generational mixing and so that’s one thing.
‘Many people are suffering from loneliness, and it’s very difficult for people to be separated from their families. But I think people need to wait that little bit longer. Be patient.’
England’s chief medical and science officers Chris Whitty (left) and Patrick Vallance (right) were at the Cobra meeting to discuss Christmas rules this evening
Burlington Arcade is decked out with festive decorations but the shops await the end of lockdown to open again in central London
Speaking after the Cobra meeting yesterday, Mr Gove said: ‘The UK-wide agreement reached yesterday will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.
‘We know that the Christmas period this year will not be normal, but following constructive discussions between the UK Government and the devolved administrations, families and friends will now have the option to meet up in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish.
‘In coming to this agreement, we have listened to scientific and clinical advice on how best to minimise the risk and reach a balanced and workable set of rules that we hope will allow people to spend time together at this important time of year.’
But PM Mr Johnson was more cautious during a video posted on his Twitter, saying: ‘This year Christmas will be different.
Number 10 ‘cherry-picked spurious Covid data to justify England’s second lockdown’
Number 10 cherry-picked ‘spurious’ coronavirus data to justify England’s second lockdown and may have intended to frightened the public, according to one of Britain’s top experts.
Eminent statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter said ministers had ‘broken pretty much every code of conduct’ by choosing only to show worst-case scenarios, which were often based on out of date data.
The Cambridge professor told MPs yesterday: ‘I don’t want to ascribe motivation to anyone of course. But if someone was really trying to manipulate the audience and frighten them and persuade them that what was being done was correct, rather than genuinely inform them, then this is the kind of thing they might do.’
Doom-mongering graphs which predicted 50,000 cases by mid-October and 4,000 deaths a day by late November were used by Downing Street to justify England’s second lockdown.
Those fantastical charts were widely ridiculed because the country was recording 14,000 daily infections last month and daily deaths currently average 441.
Speaking at a House of Commons select committee yesterday, Professor Spiegelhalter added: ‘Those projections were made by one team early in October under certain very pessimistic assumptions.
‘They’d already been revised twice by the time they were shown to the public so it was completely inappropriate to present them to the public.
‘I’m not saying the judgment [to decide to go into lockdown] was wrong, I’m not making any comment about that.
‘What I’m objecting to strongly is the fact such spurious data and graphs were being presented to the public as a justification for the decisions that were being made.
‘You didn’t need that graph, you just needed quite short-term projections to tell something needed to be done or we could be in real trouble very quickly.
‘There is good data available and yet at some point the need to persuade people, to instill a certain emotional reaction in people seems to take over at really quite a high level of decision making. I think it’s quite unfortunate.’
Even Tory MPs compared the doomsday data used to justify the second lockdown to the controversial dossier that sent Britain to war with Iraq.
‘Many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends irrespective of our faith or background. And yet we can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful.
‘I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone and it is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this special time-limited dispensation.’
Welsh First Minister Mr Drakeford struck a similar tone, adding: ‘We have to recognise that Christmas is a very important time for people, and that you have to have a set of rules that people will be prepared to operate within.
‘While I have hesitation, because of the state of the virus in Wales and across the United Kingdom, it is better that we have a common set of arrangements that give people a framework that they can manage within and act responsibly within as well.’
Ms Sturgeon had earlier suggested the Christmas respite from coronavirus lockdown would not be exactly the same in Scotland.
She said: ‘We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The ”bubble” approach aims to reduce this impact.
‘But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread. Our priority is to suppress transmission of Covid-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.
‘Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.’
Scotland currently has different rules on gatherings compared to England, such as not including under-12s in limits on numbers.
Frantic efforts have been going on for days to find a joint position for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to allow some kind of family Christmas.
The announcement had been expected yesterday, but that was cast into doubt earlier when government sources conceded ‘details need ironing out’.
As the wrangling continues between UK nations, Mr Johnson is facing a Tory revolt over his new local lockdown plans for December 2 onwards.
MPs have warned Mr Johnson that putting swathes of the country under draconian Tier Two and Three restrictions will be ‘catastrophic’ for businesses and spark a damaging new mutiny.
Ministers insist they are waiting for the latest local infection data to decide what brackets individual areas will be placed into, with the breakdown set to be published on Thursday.
But Whitehall sources said very few districts would in Tier One, where indoor socialising will be allowed.
An insider said it was ‘entirely possible that no one is in Tier One’ when the latest Covid figures are analysed Wednesday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
Senior Conservatives say the ‘mood music’ is that most places will be subject to the tougher levels – meaning heavy restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as limits on households mixing.
There are complaints that the criteria being used to decide the Tier allocations are too vague, and the geographical areas too broad. MPs and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have been lobbying to stay out of the harshest levels.
Alarmingly for Mr Johnson, the chair of the powerful 1922 said yesterday afternoon that he is ‘inclined’ to oppose the measures in a vote next week. Sir Graham Brady said he was concerned the damage being inflicted on the economy will leave a ‘legacy we could be living with for years to come’.
Mr Johnson confirmed that the blanket lockdown in England will end as scheduled next Wednesday, but cautioned that
The onerous tiered system which the Prime Minister has said will remain in place until March 31
Taking a press conference from self-isolation in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives.’
He added: ‘This is not the moment to let the virus rip for the sake of Christmas parties’. The Government has revealed its new three-tier system for when the current lockdown ends on December 2.
Labour has said it is not certain to support the plan when it comes to a vote next week as Tiers are too ‘risky’, but looks more likely to abstain than outright oppose.
That means the government is almost guaranteed to win.
However, a substantial Tory rebellion would inflict a further blow to the PM’s authority.
Sir Graham told the BBC’s World at One he was unlikely to support the measures next week.
‘My concern is that huge numbers of businesses, particularly but not exclusively in the hospitality sector, have been losing money under Tier Two already,’ he said.
‘There is a very tight limit to how much longer than they can go on doing without seeing even bigger levels of unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment.
‘And we know that if we see that big economic hit, in terms of unemployment, in terms of opportunities for young people, the effects – not just economically, but the other health impacts, physical health and mental health – are enormous, and that is the legacy we could be living with for years to come.
Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told MailOnline the critical moment will come when the Tiers are allocated.
‘There is lots of concern. Will anyone get away with Tier One?’ he said.
‘I was in Tier One before. The mood music seems to suggest that everybody is going up one – it’s going to be worse than before.
‘We will have gone from lockdown to lockdown by another name. This is indefinite – it goes on to the Spring. It is a miserable situation, but it is devastating for businesses.
‘It is catastrophic. These crazed scientists… to be fair they are only being asked how to stop the spread of a virus, but there has to be some consideration at a political level about how to stop the spread of economic disaster.’
Tory mayoral candidate for London Shaun Bailey and MPs in the capital have been urging the government to stop short of imposing Tier Three.
Mr Khan tweeted: ‘London’s unique ecosystem of bars, businesses, restaurants, clubs and cultural venues have been through an extremely tough year.
‘If they had to close throughout the Christmas period and beyond in Tier 3 – it would be a hammer blow that many might not recover from.’
Mr Johnson is trying to secure a Christmas deal with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford so people can travel anywhere in the UK
Labour’s Liverpool City mayor Steve Rotheram also demanded that the area has its status downgraded from what it was before the national lockdown. ‘I certainly hope our region won’t be going back into the highest Tier,’ he said.
Conservative MP for South West Devon, Gary Streeter, said he had been pushing to be in Tier One. ‘Just finished a zoom call with Health ministers pressing the case for our region to go into Tier 1 next week,’ he tweeted.
‘Could be touch and go. We will try to get the balance right between protecting public health and allowing the economy to breathe.’
Another Tory, William Wragg, warned that his Hazel Grove seat should not be given harsher restrictions due to hish cases in neighbouring areas. ‘We need to make sure that local Covid data is used when decisions are being made about tiers,’ he said.
Marcus Fysh MP told MailOnline numbers seemed to be coming down in Yeovil, and was ‘concerned’ about the Tier allocations. ‘I am not sure where Somerset is going to be. I would hope not Tier Three, and I would hope not Tier Two. But it wouldn’t surprise me for it to be Tier Two.’