Can I socialise this Christmas? Everything government ministers have said about festive Covid guidelines

In light of the rising Omicron cases, there has been speculation about whether Covid guidelines will be enforced this Christmas and what that would mean for social events - here are the comments from government ministers.

Various government ministers have spoken up about Christmas and whether Covid guidelines should be enforced, including Boris Johnson. (Pic credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)
Various government ministers have spoken up about Christmas and whether Covid guidelines should be enforced, including Boris Johnson. (Pic credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning (December 1), Daily Mirror reports revealed that Boris Johnson and Downing Street staff had broken Covid rules back in the festive season in 2020 when they attended two social gatherings.

The Prime Minister does not deny that Christmas parties were held in Downing Street last year, but he assures that no rules were broken.

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Since the new Covid strain, Omicron, has been detected and cases have been identified in the UK, people have questioned whether this will prompt the government to enforce Covid restrictions during the festive season this year.

There have been different messages coming from government officials; some believe that Christmas parties and social gatherings should go ahead as normal, some advise that people consistently take Covid tests to be on the cautious side.

Here are the comments from the government ministers regarding the festive period and whether we can socialise.

Downing Street

The Downing Street spokesperson told reporters: “There is nothing in the rules to prevent anyone from having Christmas parties or gathering in that way.

“There are a limited number of restrictions that we have set out on a precautionary basis while we do further investigation into this variant. Beyond that, the position has not changed since we moved past Step 4.”

George Freeman

The conservative MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “Individual businesses, in the end, have to make judgements on what is appropriate internally. It slightly depends on the nature of the business.

“For many small businesses, four or five staff, who are working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn’t a big step up in risk. But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people from around the world to a big party, and they may decide, this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?

"In the end, I think business people know how to make those decisions. The government has set out clear guidance.”

Therese Coffey

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that people should “avoid snogging under the mistletoe” over the Christmas period to restrict the spread of the new Covid variant.

When asked if she agreed with the government or Dr Jenny Harries about the approach to socialising over the festive period, she told ITV’s Peston programme: “For what it’s worth, I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe.

“[You] don’t need to do things like that. But I think we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us and that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible.”

Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister said during a visit to a vaccination centre: “People should live their lives. We are not changing the guidance on how you should basically be living your life. Providing people continue to be cautious and sensible, we think that’s the right approach.

“We continue to be in a strong position largely thanks to the speed of the vaccine rollout, another booster rollout and I think I’m going to stick with the formula I’ve used before, which is I’m pretty confident to absolutely confident this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas.”

Gillian Keegan

The health minister told Sky News: “Continue with your Christmas plans, continue with your nativity plays and your Christmas parties.

“Of course Christmas is on track and actually what everybody wants for Christmas is if you haven’t had your first jab, come and get it, if you haven’t had your second jab, come and get it, and if you haven’t had your booster, come and get it when you’re asked.”

Sajid Javid

The health secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you are invited to a Christmas party, there’s quite a few people there, maybe you want to take an LFT [lateral flow test] test before you go. Go to the party, but just be cautious.

When asked if he would wear a mask at a party, he said: “It depends if I’m walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance."

In response to Therese Coffey’s statement regarding kissing under the mistletoe, Sajid told ITV News: “People can snog who they wish. I’ll certainly be kissing my wife under the mistletoe - it’s a Javid family tradition.

“It’s got nothing to do with the government who you kiss or anything like that. But the only thing is just - there’s guidance already out there - just be cautious and enjoy yourselves.”

Oliver Dowden

The conservative party chairman told Sky News: “The message to people is fairly straightforward, which is keep calm, carry on with your Christmas plans. We’ve put the necessary restrictions in place, but beyond that, keep calm and carry on.

“We have not changed the advice around people taking part in hospitality - so going to the pub, going to restaurants and so on. And actually, I think most pubs and restaurants up until very recently have been doing well during this season and we’re not discouraging people to do so.

“I think there’s a conservative party political party, as it were, Christmas party, I think is still planned, and I don’t intend to cancel it as chairman of the conservative party,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“It will just be a normal Christmas gathering of staff that are in London, we have staff in Leeds as well, and that is completely consistent with the rules, and I would urge people to keep calm and carry on with their plans.

“We’re not changing our plans either. Of course, if the situation changes and rules need to be updated, we’ll comply with the rules as they stand.”

Professor Peter Openshaw

The member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC’s Question Time when asked about the Prime Minister’s statement on Christmas plans: “Personally, I wouldn’t feel safe going to a party at the moment, if it involves being indoors in an enclosed space where you’re close to other people, and people are not wearing masks.

“Even if they’ve been tested and vaccinated, I wouldn’t feel safe.”