Covid: Government urges people to have Christmas parties despite Omicron

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The government has urged people to ‘keep calm and carry on’ with Christmas parties despite the spread of the Omicron variant. 

Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden confirmed the Tory’s festive bash would be going ahead as planned after a week of mixed messaging from ministers and officials.  

The UK Health Security Agency’s Jenny Harries urged people to consider socialising less in the run up to Christmas with cases already high earlier this week.

But ministers have been scrambling to paint a more positive picture in the face of variant concerns, creating a week of confusion for people planning their dos.

Health secretary Sajid Javid, who has already urged people to take a test before parties, was forced to say it’s ‘not up to the government who people’ kiss after DWP chief Therese Coffey said said ‘snogging under the mistletoe’ should be avoided with ‘people you don’t already know’.

Business minister George Freeman spark further uncertainty when he suggested parties should be limited to five people.

Now Mr Dowden, who also sits in the cabinet, says his party will lead by example and hold its event, urging others to do the same.

The chair of the Conservative Party says they will be going ahead with their Christmas party (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)

He told Sky News: ‘The message to people, I think, is fairly straightforward – which is keep calm, carry on with your Christmas plans. 

‘We’ve put the necessary restrictions in place, but beyond that keep calm and carry on.

‘I understand that people have concerns around the new variant. 

‘That’s why the government has taken the sort of measures that we’ve already outlined … we think those are sufficient at this stage and, beyond that, people should continue with their plans as intended.’

He said if people are ‘worried’ they should ‘make sure that they take that booster’ and added: ’I think people can continue with their Christmas plans and I’d encourage people to do so.

On the Tory bash, he said: ‘I think there’s a Conservative Party political party, as it were, Christmas party, I think is still planned, and I don’t intend to cancel it as chairman of the Conservative Party.’

Asked about the nature of the event, he said: ‘It will just be a normal Christmas gathering of staff that are in London, we have staff in Leeds as well, and that is completely consistent with the rules, and I would urge people to keep calm and carry on with their plans.

Boris Johnson got in the festive this spirit by visiting a Christmas market but some health official are worried about the spread of Covid-19 this month (Picture: EPA)

‘We’re not changing our plans either. Of course, if the situation changes and rules need to be updated, we’ll comply with the rules as they stand.’

It was reported yesterday that up to 60 people were infected with the Omicron variant at a Christmas party in Norway.

As well as this year’s holiday plans, the government has also been facing questions about alleged parties in Downing Street last year when the country was in lockdown.

Downing Street has insisted any gatherings, which reportedly featured drinking, eating and party games, followed the rules.

Asked if he had spoken to people who may have information about the nature of the reported event, which is claimed to have broken social distancing rules, Mr Dowden told the BBC: ‘I have not been having conversations about what may or may not have happened over a year ago.’

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