The majority of Britons believe Christmas should be cancelled this year amid plans to loosen restrictions over the festive period, a poll has found.
A YouGov poll of 3,856 adults found 57 per cent think the current rules should be maintained over Christmas – instead of allowing bubbles of up to three households to mix.
It comes as talks between the UK Government and leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland broke up this evening without an agreement on whether to keep Christmas ‘bubbles’, amid a surge in Covid cases.
Tory MPs are increasingly nervous about the UK-wide proposals, after respected medical journals the BMJ and HSJ warned the ‘rash’ move will ‘cost lives’ and must be axed.
A YouGov poll of 3,856 adults found 57 per cent think the current rules should be maintained over Christmas – instead of allowing bubbles of up to three households to mix
Health committee chair Jeremy Hunt said the government should be listening to the concerns ‘very very carefully’.
And the British public appear to agree – as just 31 per cent said they wanted the plan for ‘bubbles’ to go ahead. Separate Ipsos MORI research found 49 per cent thought the rules were not strict enough.
After days of sitting on the fence, Sir Keir Starmer this afternoon called for a Cobra meeting to assess whether the loosening should go ahead, saying he was ‘increasingly worried’.
But although he insisted he would support the premier if he decided to reverse the bubbles, Sir Keir still stopped short of backing the move. ‘Any further tightening of restrictions will obviously be deeply disappointing to many across the country,’ he wrote in a letter.
‘But the public do not want false reassurance, warm words or ducked challenges from their prime minister. They want leadership.’
A rise in infections means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be put under Tier Three curbs from Monday night
London mayor Sadiq Khan has added his voice to the demands, but predicted that the PM will not shift because he won’t want to be seen as ‘cancelling Christmas’.
Under the festive easing, up to three households are allowed to meet for five days between December 23 and 27.
Downing Street said all policies were kept under ‘constant review’, but insisted the ‘intention’ is to proceed with the plan despite a rise in infections that means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be put under Tier Three curbs from tonight.
In their blunt editorial today, the BMJ and HSJ said: ‘When government devised the current plans to allow house-hold mixing over Christmas it had assumed the covid-19 demand on the NHS would be decreasing.
Under the festive easing, up to three households are allowed to meet for five days between December 23 and 27. Pictured, shoppers on Regents Street yesterday
‘But it is not, it is rising, and the emergence of a new strain of the virus has introduced further potential jeopardy.
‘Members of the public can and should mitigate the impact of the third wave by being as careful as possible over the next few months. But many will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.
‘The government was too slow to introduce restrictions in the Spring and again in the Autumn. It should now reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave.
‘It should also review and strengthen the tier structure, which has failed to suppress rates of infection and hospitalisation.’
The article added that ‘the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives’. ‘If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be “protecting the NHS”,’ it said.
Separate Ipsos MORI research found 49 per cent thought the rules were not strict enough
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘There will be a four-nations discussion later today to take stock of recent developments.
‘But, for now, I would urge the utmost caution.
‘If you can avoid mixing with other households over Christmas, especially indoors, please do.
‘But if you feel it essential to do so – and we have tried to be pragmatic in recognising that some people will – then please reduce your unnecessary contacts as much as possible between now and then.’
The seriousness of the situation facing Boris Johnson was underlined as daily cases hit 18,450, up 50 per cent on last Tuesday, although deaths were down.