‘I’ve changed my festive plans… and so should you’: Priti Patel will not be visiting her parents for Christmas after warning of high risk of spreading Covid-19 at family gatherings
- The Home Secretary said people should not travel long distances to see families
- A five-day amnesty allows people to mix in group of three households
- However the Government is now urging people to limit festive gatherings
- Patel said people should not travel between tiers despite restrictions permitting this over the five-day Christmas period
Families should cancel plans to travel long distances for Christmas get-togethers, Priti Patel said yesterday.
The Home Secretary warned about the high risk of celebrating with loved ones following a surge in Covid cases.
A five-day festive amnesty letting families mix in groups of three households was announced last month. But Miss Patel says those planning to take advantage should ‘make changes in the light of what we know’ about the rapid spread of the virus in recent weeks.
Asked if that meant cancelling plans for long-distance trips, she said: ‘I would urge people to change. I won’t be seeing my parents this Christmas. My parents live in a different part of the country and I will not travel to see them. I want to protect them. I don’t want to be spreading the virus. I feel I will take that responsibility and others will make that judgment too.’
Although the Christmas amnesty allows travel between areas in different tiers, she urged people to avoid it. ‘We’re urging people not to travel,’ she said. ‘Why would you travel? If you’re in a low tier area, why would you travel into a high tier area?
Home Secretary Priti Patel warned against travelling to spend Christmas with family members, saying she wouldn’t be visiting her own parents in order to keep them safe. Pictured: Patel (centre) with father Sushil (left), mother Anjana (second from the right) and husband Alex (right) in March 2017 [File photo]
‘Why would you travel from a high tier to a low tier?’
Her comments follow new Government guidance advising people to ‘minimise’ Christmas gatherings, to avoid seeing people over 70 where possible and not to stay overnight with relatives.
It also suggested that people who do get together in their ‘Christmas bubbles’ should try to maintain social distancing and take measures such as opening windows and wiping down door handles to reduce the risk of virus spread.
Asked if she wants the public to report any rule breaches they see over the festive period, the Home Secretary said: ‘Any individual that saw any laws being broken would take that upon themselves.
‘If I saw somebody flouting coronavirus regulations and the laws, of course I would look to inform the police about that. The public are part of this… we do see the public and the police working together.’
She denied that police would relax their normal enforcement of coronavirus laws for Christmas.
She added: ‘Their role is to enforce against the egregious breaches – the raves, the house parties, anything basically that is in breach of the rules that would effectively lead to the spread of the virus.’ But some critics claim the new guidance does not go far enough.
The British Medical Association has said that allowing the Christmas amnesty to go ahead will ‘cost lives’ and Labour yesterday stepped up calls for it to be scrapped altogether.
The UK recorded 25,161 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, adding to a total of 1,948,660
Party leader Keir Starmer said: ‘The numbers are heading in the wrong direction. The medical advice is that this could lead to real problems in January.
‘Instead of the Prime Minister stepping up himself and saying ‘I’m leading from the front’, he is effectively saying ‘it’s over to you, families and communities’ and trying to shift the blame to other people to take responsibility for Christmas.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted Britons could be trusted to show ‘personal responsibility’ by limiting their contacts with older relatives.
‘I think that aspect of personal responsibility is important,’ he said.
‘Sometimes it feels to me that the debate is as though, if we do not in Government put in place concrete rules, nobody will take any action.
‘Actually it is down to individuals, each and every one of us, to take responsibility for our actions. Within the rules, of course, but also being cautious.’
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