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Covid: Call for UK-wide rules after Christmas

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image captionUp to three households can form an exclusive "bubble" to meet at home during the Christmas period

A UK-wide approach to coronavirus rules after Christmas is needed, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The UK government and ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed three households can meet from 23 December until 27 December.

Mr Drakeford said it "makes sense" to "respond to the consequences of greater household mixing" together in the aftermath of the five-day period.

The UK government said it was "a key example" of a unified UK-wide response.

Mr Drakeford said his own family would make "some modest use of the freedoms".

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image captionMark Drakford says he was "cheered" by the four nations' ability to reach an agreement

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, he said: "I am cheered up by the fact that by meeting together four times, we've been able to reach a common position on the five days of Christmas.

"But I want us to reach a common position on how we approach the aftermath of Christmas as well and I think it makes sense to do that across the United Kingdom as well - have a common approach to responding to the consequences of greater household mixing.

"I do think that getting around the table together to go through a plan for it should be the next step [in] what I think of as the successful way in which we've been able to plan together for the five days of Christmas itself."

Under the agreement for Christmas, made at a meeting of Cobra on Tuesday afternoon:

  • Travel restrictions will be eased to provide a window for households to come together
  • Up to three households can form an exclusive "bubble" to meet at home during the period
  • Bubbles must be fixed and "must not be changed or extended further"
  • Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, a place of worship or an outdoor public place

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price called for the Welsh Government to "keep a close eye" on infection rates and impose further restrictions if necessary.

Mr Price also called for quicker test results so "tracing teams can begin their work of clamping down on cases and possible clusters or outbreaks".

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Paul Davies, claimed it was Mr Johnson who had suggested the "collaborative approach".

Meanwhile a UK government spokesman added: "We welcome the desire of the Welsh administration to work even more closely with the UK government, delivering for communities across all four corners of the country."

media captionAbby wants her family to be together at Christmas - but there are too many households

However some scientists have warned that the relaxation of Covid restrictions over the festive period could spark another wave of infections and further deaths.

They said a typical Christmas gathering at home was the type of environment where infections could spread.

People have been advised to take precautions when meeting their Christmas bubble, such as washing hands frequently and opening windows to clear potential virus particles.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionUp to three households can form an exclusive "bubble" to meet indoors during the Christmas period

When asked what his plans were for Christmas, Mr Drakeford said: "I am looking forward to seeing some members of my family who I haven't been able to meet indoors for many, many months now, but we will do it in a very contained, careful way.

"We certainly won't be mixing with people who are vulnerable or whose age puts them at a particular disadvantage.

"I am looking forward to being able to make some modest use of the freedoms."

When asked about introducing tougher restrictions ahead of Christmas, he said his cabinet would meet on Thursday "to see whether or not the position in Wales means that we have to introduce some further restrictions to create the headroom we need to be able to use those five days over Christmas in a responsible way".   

On Tuesday, Mr Drakeford said an agreement to relax Covid rules over Christmas was not "an instruction to meet with other people".

"So it's not a choice between relaxation or no relaxation. It's having a form of relaxation where there are rules that people will recognise that will allow people to enjoy Christmas, but we'll do it in a controlled way."

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