Households in Nottinghamshire are being urged by a senior Government figure to stick to the new Christmas rules following a concerning rise in cases and a new strain of coronavirus in other parts of the country.
Speaking from Downing Street on Saturday afternoon (December 19) Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed a number of changes to the Christmas period.
This includes a severe curtailing of the Christmas bubble policy allowing up to three households to mix for just one day, on Christmas Day, instead of the initial five days planned.
The Prime Minister said the changes were made with a “very heavy heart”.
Responding to the decision, Mr Johnson’s Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, who is Conservative MP for Sherwood and lives in Lambley, and was involved in today’s cabinet meeting, said: “No one wanted to be here, no one wanted to do this.
“But we have to change and adapt as the virus does.”
Mr Spencer said it was understandable that people want to spend Christmas with loved ones, but that they should also want to spend them together “for many years to come” and not be lost to Covid-19.
He told Nottinghamshire Live it was important “not to lose sight of the hope” despite the last minute changes and that there was a possibility to celebrate at Easter.
“Hope is on the horizon,” he said.
“It may feel very upsetting, I accept that, but let’s not lose sight of the hope. The vaccine is coming, it just wasn’t enough to save us in time for Christmas.”
Elsewhere, Christmas has effectively been cancelled completely for the millions of people across London and the south east of England, with the introduction of new Tier 4 measures.
From Sunday, areas in the south east currently in Tier 3 will be moved into a new Tier 4 with similar restrictions to the lockdown rules of November.
Non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close for two weeks – while people will be restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.
The decision has been spurred by the prevalence of a new strain of Covid-19 in the south east, with scientists concluding this version of the virus was spreading more quickly.
The Prime Minister was advised of the group’s conclusions at a meeting with ministers on Friday evening, and the new regulations were signed off by the Cabinet in a conference call on Saturday lunchtime.
When asked why it was important for Nottinghamshire households to stay local at Christmas, Mr Spencer said: “If you have relatives in Kent who are thinking of travelling to Nottinghamshire, or you are here and planning to travel there, you must not go.
“We must not let this new strain spread across the country.
“If you want to put family first, think about protecting them from the virus.
“You may have Christmas all round the table this year but it might mean someone is missing next year.”
When asked if he thought the Prime Minister could have made the Christmas changes earlier, after stating it would be ‘inhuman’ to enforce cancellations only days ago, Mr Spencer said: “It’s about getting the political balance right.
“It would have been easy to cancel Christmas for everyone as early as possible.
“But we have got to try and find the balance, which often means reacting as the situation develops.
“It is very sad, but it’s not as sad as attending someone’s funeral.”
Mr Spencer was involved in the Cabinet meeting on Saturday ahead of the final announcement.
Describing what the conversation was like, he said: “No one is enjoying this. No one enjoys putting restrictions on peoples’ lives.
“This is not why people go into politics. It’s dire – the situation that we face.
“But we have got to manage it, and work to keep as many people alive as possible and focus on that light at the end of the tunnel.”
For those wondering about the enforcement behind Christmas restrictions in Nottinghamshire and other parts of the country, Mr Spencer said: “These new rules will be law, so by breaching them, it is breaching law.
“But will the police be coming round to count dinner plates? No.
“These measures are not to make criminals out of people – it’s to keep people safe.
“We all have a responsibility to our friends, neighbours and realtives. We shouldn’t need to be told by authorities.”
The leader of Nottingham City Council has also spoken out following the news.
Councillor David Mellen said: “People who have made plans to meet up with loved ones over Christmas will be bitterly disappointed that they can now only do this on Christmas Day itself. However the news about London and the South East moving into a new tier 4 after only days ago being in tier two is very concerning.
“Although Nottingham has seen the number of Covid-19 cases reduce considerably over the last few weeks, the virus is still present in our communities and there has been small rise in positive cases this week. It’s absolutely vital that we all continue to stick to the rules and follow the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance to stop the spread and avoid putting pressure on our hospitals.”