Steve October 30, 2020


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The UK government intends to hold a meeting to discuss a UK-wide approach to Covid rules at Christmas, the Welsh first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said PM Boris Johnson had told him to expect an invitation to talks on a “common approach”.

Mr Drakeford said there was a need for leaders to “get round the table” and “share ideas”.

A UK cabinet minister said earlier this week it was “too early to say” what the rules will be.

Environment Secretary George Eustice warned people “may not be able to get together in the larger groups that they normally would”.

His comments came after the Liberal Democrats and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland called for a “four-nations summit” to agree a shared plan.

Mr Johnson’s government has responsibility for health policy – including Covid-19 restrictions and limits on gatherings – in England.

Similar rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set by the countries’ devolved governments.

This means different restrictions are in place across the UK, which, it is argued, could cause confusion for people travelling during the holidays.

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Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Mr Drakeford said Mr Johnson had written to him “at the start of this week” to expect an invitation from Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to discuss a “common approach to Christmas”.

“We’ve done our best to secure that meeting this week, it hasn’t yet been forthcoming,” he told reporters.

“We need to get round the table together, we need to share that information, we need to share ideas.”

He added he would like to see “as common an approach as we can craft together” over Christmas, while “recognising that the state of the virus and the response that’s being made does differ from one part of the UK to another”.

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image captionSheffield is among English cities in the tier 3 “very high” alert level of tightest restrictions.

In non-pandemic years, millions of people move around the UK at Christmas time to see friends or families, packing out trains and clogging up motorways.

If household gatherings continue to be limited in number, many of the usual larger gatherings would be illegal this year.

Scotland is due to move to a five-tier system of virus alert levels from 2 November, with various levels of restrictions on indoor gatherings and travel.

Wales has started a national lockdown until 9 November, under which people are only able to leave home for limited reasons, with a ban on households mixing.

Northern Ireland has also introduced additional restrictions, including an extended two-week half term for schools.

From midnight on Friday, over half of England’s population will be living under tier 2 or tier 3 restrictions, under which household mixing indoors is banned.

Speaking after Mr Drakeford’s press conference, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said there should be “comprehensive uniform guidance for family gatherings”.

He added that “fractured guidance” should not be allowed to “confuse and divide people” over the festive period.

A UK government spokesperson said minsters had worked closely with the devolved administrations in tackling the pandemic.

They added that meetings and calls with devolved leaders and officials would “continue to be a key part of the planning and communication of the overall response.”

from the BBC

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