Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s new Shadow Business and Industrial Strategy Secretary, has urged people not to “pre-emptively” cancel their Christmas parties amid conflicting advice from government officials.
Speaking to Times Radio this morning, Reynolds said: “On Christmas parties, I would say that we have invested as a country billions of pounds in the vaccine rollout, in test and trace, and we did that to ensure that we could use that to try and get through, as best as possible, normal life.
“And so yes, I would take a test before I went to a Christmas party. But I don’t want to see people pre-emptively cancelling those right now. One, because people need to live their lives and have some fun.
“But also because obviously it has a huge impact on things like the hospitality industry of those decisions being made. So when I talked to leaving business organisations yesterday, that was the position that they articulated to me and I think that’s the right balance to take at this stage.”
People have been advised not to cancel their Christmas parties, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying they should instead consider measures such as taking Covid tests before going or wearing face masks when socialising.
But business minister George Freeman said companies should reconsider holding large Christmas gatherings for hundreds of staff, asking whether this was “sensible”. He said his department would not be having a party.
Freeman told BBC Radio 4: “For many small businesses, four of five staff who are working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn’t a big step up in risk.
“But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people around the world to a big party and they may decide this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?”
He added: “My parliamentary team, I think we’ve agreed – probably given the new variant – we’ll get together on Zoom and toast each other.” It came after Thérèse Coffey advised people against “snogging under the mistletoe”.
According to various newspapers, office Christmas parties are already being cancelled and staff are being told to work from home, though the government has so far resisted calls – including from Labour – to reintroduce working from home guidance.
The Yorkshire Post has reported that at least one primary school in Yorkshire has told parents and guardians they will not be able to attend Christmas plays, specifically citing concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that there was no need to cancel parties, nativity plays or other festivities, but UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries advised people on Monday to “decrease social contacts”.