Christmas cancelled? Mixed messages cause confusion over festive dos

A Generic Photo of people clinking glasses at a Christmas party. See PA Feature FINANCE Christmas Sa

Government ministers and health leaders have been giving conflicting advice over whether or not Christmas parties should be held this year - Credit: Press Association Images

Government ministers and health leaders don't seem to be able to get their stories straight over Christmas parties.

And restaurants and pubs now face growing cancellations of festive dos amid uncertainty after the emergence of new Covid variant Omicron and the return of compulsory face masks on public transport and in shops.

Conflicting statements are causing further dismay for hospitality bosses who were hoping for a busy year this Christmas after the challenges of the past two years. 

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries. Pic: Pippa Fowles/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA W

Dr Jenny Harries said people should avoid unnecessary socialising - Credit: PA

Dr Jenny Harries: Avoid unnecessary socialising

The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency advised on Tuesday that people should avoid unnecessary socialising in the run up to Christmas.

Dr Harries said: "Our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas mean we tend to socialise more. 

"If we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, that helps to keep the variant at bay.

“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jabs will help."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Londo

Boris Johnson said nothing should be cancelled this year - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson: Follow advice and don't cancel anything

Most Read

The prime minister has said that people should be following the guidance the government laid out over the weekend and should not call-off any Christmas parties or nativity plays.

Mr Johnson said: "“The most important thing is that people should follow the guidance that we’ve set out and people shouldn’t be cancelling things, and there’s no need for that at all, that’s not what we’re saying.

“I don’t think there’s any need to stop that at all.

“And I want, as I’ve said many times before, I think we’re taking a balanced and proportionate approach to the risk, but I want and I believe that Christmas this year will be considerably better than Christmas last year.”

Therese Coffey MP

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, advised against snogging strangers under the mistletoe this year - Credit: Archant

Therese Coffey: No 'snogging' under the mistletoe

Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP and secretary of state for work and pensions, advised against kissing strangers at Christmas dos this year.

Dr Coffey said: “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.”

Dr Coffey later took to Twitter to clarify her statement, saying she meant that people should avoid locking lips with strangers, rather than no one at all.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

The leader of Norfolk County Council, Andrew Proctor, said taking simple steps to keep others safe can help prevent another lockdown Christmas - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Councillor Andrew Proctor: Simple steps to avoid lockdown Christmas

The leader of Norfolk County Council advised people to take simple steps that can help reduce the risk of transmitting Covid to others.

Mr Proctor said:  “All of us are looking forward to Christmas, and the chance to make up for lost chances to see friends and family last year make this Christmas all the sweeter.

"But we won’t be able to gather around the table if we or those we love are in isolation or, worse, in hospital: a few simple steps are all it takes to reduce our risk of infection and make sure Covid can’t ruin our Christmas.”

The steps include opening windows, taking the party outside and taking regular Covid tests.

George Freeman MP

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk suggested work parties should be scaled back this year - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

George Freeman: Scale back work parties

The MP for Mid Norfolk suggested today that Christmas parties should be a low-key affair this year, advising larger companies to resist holding big events.

Speaking with BBC Radio 4, the minister for science, research and innovation said: “Individual businesses, in the end, have to make judgments 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 in 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.”

Coronavirus cases in Norfolk are "stabilising", according to the county's director of public health,

Dr Louise Smith advised people to meet people outside or in well-ventilated areas - Credit: Archant

Dr Louise Smith: Take the party outside

Norfolk's director for public health reiterated the advice from Norfolk County Council, urging people to do their bit to reduce the risk of catching Covid.

Dr Smith said: “We’ve not seen a winter surge in Covid figures in the UK so far, which means we’re all hoping to enjoy a more traditional Christmas that we couldn’t last year.

"To keep case rates from climbing and ensure we don’t risk spending our Christmas in self-isolation, we need to keep practicing the good habits we’ve picked up over the last year.

"Taking our Christmas catch ups outside over hot drinks, or making sure we keep windows open and ventilation clear indoors, can help keep case rates at their current levels and holiday plans on track.”

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

Professor Paul Hunter said it may be best to skip the office party this year - Credit: Archant © 2013

Professor Paul Hunter: Skip the party

Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, said he had decided to skip his office's Christmas party - and suggested others might want to follow suit.

He said: "It's notable that England is not advising against Christmas parties and, personally, I think that is a mistake.

"The thing about an office Christmas party is you can get a lot of 20-somethings, who might have been going out a lot, mixing with more vulnerable, older people, who have not."