The four nations could make a united plan for Christmas - here’s what we know so far
The four governments of the UK are expected to hold a meeting later this week to discuss the restrictions that will be in place for Christmas.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference that his team had been contacted by Michael Gove’s Cabinet office to “get a date in the diary” in the next few days.
A ‘common approach’
Mr Drakeford said that the focus of the meeting is to discuss a “common approach to Christmas” and said the UK government had suggested there would now be “weekly engagement” with the four nations.
These regular meetings would result in the “regular, reliable rhythm” that the Welsh government has been calling for, with the intention of implementing common measures that will be adopted across the whole of the UK over the festive period.
The First Minister said, “I think it is good news that the first topic of discussion will be a common plan for Christmas because I firmly believe that this is one of those areas where having an approach that is adopted across the United Kingdom is he right way to be able to offer hope to people here in Wales and elsewhere that we are able to plan purposefully together for the season.”
Mr Drakeford spoke as Wales’ 17 day long ‘firebreak’ lockdown came to an end, with a new set of national measures put in place on 9 November. He said he could not “categorically” rule out further measures being put in place, but it is hoped there will be a “path through Christmas, beyond Christmas and into the new year.”
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that the four nations are aiming to have as much consistency with rules as possible, including measures to allow students to return home for Christmas. The Scottish government is considering staggered term ends, testing, and the balance of in-person and blended learning at the start of the new term.
In England, which currently has a second national lockdown in place until 2 December, it is expected that rules will revert back to the previous tier system at the end of the four week period.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said he was confident that England’s Covid R rate will drop below one by 2 December - a milestone that is needed for lifting restrictions - but it will depend on how effectively members of the public have followed the new instructions.
What about a vaccine?
The military and NHS staff are on standby to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine across the UK from the start of December and will work “seven days a week” to administer it, the Health Secretary has confirmed.
However, Matt Hancock said there are still many hurdles to overcome before the vaccination can begin, including regulatory approval of the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and assessment of its safety data.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer (which is developing the mRNA-based vaccine with BioNTech) announced that its vaccine candidate is more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 during a major trial on 9 November.
Pfizer said the results were from an independent interim analysis of the results of its phase three clinical study.
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine, marking the first agreement the firms signed with any government.
People will need two doses, meaning not enough shots have been secured for the entire UK population. However, it is likely other vaccines will announce results from their clinical trials shortly.
Those who are most in need will be given the vaccine as soon as possible, but it is likely most people will not get the jab until 2021.