Boris under mounting pressure to change Christmas bubble rules

NICOLA Sturgeon today heaped pressure on Boris Johnson to “tighten” the Christmas rules ahead of a crunch 4-nations call this afternoon.

The First Minister of Scotland warned she had called for an emergency summit to decide if the number of days Brits can see each other should be slashed – or cutting the amount of people able to attend.

Under plans agreed across the UK, up to three households will be able to form a “Christmas bubble” and meet between 23 and 27 December.

But in comments which threaten to throw the UK’s Christmas plans into chaos, Ms Sturgeon suggested it could be changed as a result of recent events.

She told the Scottish Parliament: “But I do think that there is a case for us looking at whether we tighten the flexibilities that were given any further, both in terms of duration and numbers of people meeting, and I will consider the views of the other nations.

“If we can come to a four nations agreement, I think that would be preferable.

“If that is not possible then of course we will consider within the Scottish Government what we think is appropriate and of course I will update parliament as soon as there is anything to update parliament on.”

Her warning puts Boris in a difficult position as it was promised any agreement would be across the whole of the UK.

It comes after top doctors at the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal published a joint editorial calling on the Government to stop Christmas household mixing to protect the NHS.

And this afternoon Labour joined medics in demanding an emergency review of the relaxation of the rules – to see it was safe for people to meet up over the holidays.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove will hold a phonecall with leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales this afternoon to discuss the Christmas rules.

The four leaders held another call just last Friday – but decided to continue to go ahead with the plans.

The fresh call – just four days later – may be a sign of sudden panic that it may be unsafe to go ahead with them.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I would urge the utmost caution, if you can avoid mixing with other households over Christmas than please do so. 

“If you do feel it is essential to do so… please reduce your number of unnecessary contacts between now and then and of course follow all of the sensible mitigations.”

She said Scotland must “retain the ability to be flexible” in a hint she wants to be able to impose different, tighter rules.

But Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford described the four nations approach to Christmas as a “hard-won agreement” and said he will “not lightly put it aside” – in a hint the rules may stay as they are.

In a letter to the Prime Minister today, Keir Starmer demanded another COBRA meeting to look at the issue.

He warned: “Sadly, it does now appear that the Government has – once again – lost control of infections, putting our economy and our NHS at grave risk in the new year.”

He adds: “I understand that people want to spend time with their families after this awful year, but the situation has clearly taken a turn for the worse since the decision about Christmas was taken. 

“It is my view that you should now convene COBRA in the next 24 hours to review whether the current relaxation is appropriate given the rising number of cases.”

And if they decided that it would be safer to scrap the rules, Sir Keir vowed to back him.