Should I have a Christmas party? Should I take a test? Your Covid questions answered
As Christmas bashes are cancelled around the country, both sides of the Commons agree that those who do throw parties should be free to kiss, reports ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana
Boris Johnson has urged people to not cancel their Christmas parties after a division of the government's business department decided Covid meant theirs could not go ahead.
The prime minister said "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".
He said apart from the measures introduced, such as mask wearing in shops and on public transport, "we want people to continue as they are".
It comes after MP George Freeman, the minister for science, research and innovation, told ITV News that the party he usually holds with his constituency team will take place over Zoom this year because it would be "too difficult".
His division of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy "will not be having a big Christmas party" either, he said, but added that the government does not want to tell businesses "what they should and shouldn't do".
"In the end businesses, families, communities, understand I think, we've all got to exercise common sense," the Tory MP said.
Did Boris Johnson break Covid rules with a Christmas party last year? Here's what he told Anushka Asthana on Thursday
Mr Freeman said "the guidance from the government is very clear", however critics have been saying the exact opposite; that it is rather confusing.
The laws on wearing masks in shops and on public transport, along with Covid testing requirements for international arrivals, are easy to understand.
But there has been mixed messaging on socialising coming from ministers, advisers and Number 10 since those rules became law on Tuesday.
Should I stop socialising over Christmas?
Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, sparked confusion by saying alongside following the rules, people could help slow the spread of coronavirus by working from home and socialising less.
When asked if people should work from home in England, as is happening in the devolved nations, she told the BBC: “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually 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 which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”
She was quickly rebuked by the PM's spokesperson, who said people should be following government guidance.
Asked if Dr Harries' view that people should try to avoid socialising when they do not need to over the Christmas period was shared by the prime minister, the spokesperson told reporters: "No. Our advice to the public is as set out at the weekend."
"The public should follow the guidance as set out by the government."
Should Christmas parties and nativity plays go ahead this year?
As minister Mr Freeman said, he's cancelled his constituency office Christmas party and he told the BBC some big businesses may want to consider doing the same.
"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?"
But the prime minister has insisted he does not want people to cancel their planned events.
"You talk about kids in nativity plays and that kind of thing," the prime minister said, "I don't think there's any need to stop that at all".
Asked why government departments were cancelling festive celebrations despite Boris Johnson urging people not to, the PM's official spokesman said: "The prime minister has been very clear on this.
"On Christmas parties, we don't want people to cancel such events. There is no government guidance to that end."
Should I take a Covid test before going to a Christmas party? And should I wear a mask while I'm there?
It's not in the official government guidance but Health Secretary Sajid Javid believes it would be a good idea.
He told ITV News it would be "very sensible indeed" for people to check their Covid status with a quick-result lateral flow test before attending festive bashes, especially if there will be a lot of people attending.
He told the BBC that people should "go to the party but just be cautious".
Asked if he'd wear a mask while at Christmas parties, he said: “It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating.
“People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.”
How many people can come to my Christmas party?
Downing Street said rules dictating Christmas party sizes are not in the current set of Covid regulations.
Asked whether Mr Freeman had been setting out his own personal position when he suggested larger businesses might consider scaling back or forgoing staff festive parties, the PM's official spokesman said: "I think, as you know, Government advice does not set any limits on numbers (in the) guidance."
The No 10 official added: "There is nothing in the rules to prevent anyone from having Christmas parties or gathering in that way."
What about kissing under the mistletoe?
According to the government it's not necessary to cut socialising in the run up to Christmas, but according to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey it would be a good idea to avoid kissing people.
She was asked on ITV’s Peston programme whether she agrees with Jenny Harries or the government about social distancing over Christmas.
She said: “We should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us”, adding: “For what it’s worth, I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe".
She continued: “And that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible, and of course continuing to encourage people who haven't been vaccinated at all yet, to come forward, recognising that we're still trying to understand the impact of Omicron."
When Peston asked: "Just no snogging?", Ms Coffey replied: "Well, not with people you don't already know!"