Keir Starmer demands review of Christmas coronavirus rules by lunchtime tomorrow

Keir Starmer has demanded an urgent review of of Christmas coronavirus rules by tomorrow lunchtime after cases soared. 

The Labour leader today wrote to Boris Johnson urging him to convene emergency body COBRA in “in the next 24 hours”. 

It comes as pressure mounts on the Prime Minister to rethink the five-day truce where three households can gather on December 23-27.

For only the second time in 100 years, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal joined forces to call for Christmas bubbles to be axed.

The journals wrote: “We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS.’”

Writing to the Prime Minister, Sir Keir urged him to “convene COBRA in the next 24 hours to review whether the current relaxation is appropriate”.

Labour’s leader stopped short of calling for Christmas bubble rules to be scrapped.

But he said the government has “once again lost control of infections, putting our economy and our NHS at grave risk in the new year.”

He added: “Any further tightening of restrictions will obviously be deeply disappointing to many across the country.

“But the public do not want false reassurance, warm words or ducked challenges from their Prime Minister. They want leadership.”

Under rules agreed between the four UK governments, people in any tiers can travel and gather anywhere in the UK in a three-household ‘Christmas bubble’ from December 23-27.

People in the same bubble can stay in the same house and share meals and go to places of worship together.

Christmas bubbles must be one-off and exclusive. Other tier rules such as pub and restaurant closures will remain in place.

But since they were agreed, cases have risen exponentially in London and parts of the south east – forcing a total of 34.2million people into Tier 3 in England.

And a new strain of the virus has been discovered which ministers believe spreads more quickly, although it is not currently thought to be more dangerous or vaccine-resistant.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said this lunchtime: “This Christmas will not be normal, but we wanted to give families and friends the option to meed up in a cautious way should they wish to.”

But he added: “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we keep all advice under constant review.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman would not be drawn on how close to Christmas the advice could be changed.

And he refused to rule out reducing the number of days bubble rules would last, or the number of households which could mix.