The Health Secretary has declared people can “snog who they wish” this Christmas – after another top Tory told Brits not to kiss strangers under the mistletoe.
Sajid Javid said it was not up to the Government to decide who people can kiss amid growing confusion over Covid guidance this Christmas.
New restrictions have been brought in to tackle the Omicron variant, including mandatory masks in shops and on public transport, and PCR tests for all arrivals from abroad.
But ministers have sowed confusion by saying wildly different things about the guidance – which is voluntary rather than a legal requirement – on things like social contact.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Brits that “snogging under the mistletoe” should be avoided with “people you don’t already know” on Wednesday night.
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But Mr Javid disagreed, telling ITV News today “it’s got nothing to do with the government who you kiss”, when asked about how people should behave over the Christmas period.
He said: “People can snog who they wish. I’ll certainly be kissing my wife under the mistletoe, it’s a Javid family tradition and it’s got nothing to do with the government who you kiss, or anything like that.
“There’s guidance already out there, just be cautious and enjoy yourselves.”
He did not expand on what he meant by being “cautious”.
“I was quite surprised to see that suggestion come out of Government,” he told ITV.
“I think it just demonstrates how they are at sixes and nines if that’s what they are now discussing.”
No10 said of Ms Coffey’s comments: “It is down to individuals to use their personal judgement”.
Earlier this week, top official Dr Jenny Harries enraged Tory backbenchers by saying people should reduce their social contacts and avoid “socialising when we don’t particularly need to”.
Boris Johnson later contradicted her and said events did not need to be cancelled.
But then Tory Minister George Freeman muddied the waters by appearing to suggest people should not have big Christmas parties.
He told the BBC : “Individual businesses, in the end, have to make judgments on what is appropriate internally.
“It slightly depends on the nature of the business.
“For many small businesses, four or 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 in from around the world to a big party, and they may decide, this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?”
Mr Freeman also told Times Radio: “I can tell you the Department of Business, we won’t be having a big Christmas party this year. Nobody would expect us to.”
Later on Thursday, Mr Johnson again insisted that people did not need to cancel their festive plans.
Speaking to broadcasters after having his booster jab in London, the PM said: “I want to repeat the guidance is there and I’m very, very keen that people understand this, we don’t want people to feel that they need to start cancelling things, to start… you talk about kids in nativity plays and that kind of thing.
“I don’t think there’s any need to stop that at all.
“I think we’re taking a balanced and proportionate approach to the risk, but I want and I believe that Christmas this year will be considerably better than Christmas last year.”
Boss of pub group Young’s Patrick Dardis said some Christmas parties had already been cancelled amid concerns over the Omicron variant.
He said: “I think the messaging has been terribly confusing and inconsistent.”