In a year of hard decisions about how to confront the coronavirus, perhaps none has proved as anguished for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as whether to ban people in Britain from getting together for a little Christmas cheer.
For weeks, British tabloids have speculated that Mr. Johnson would be forced to “cancel Christmas.” Some noted that he would the first British leader to do so since Oliver Cromwell tried to stamp out Yuletide merrymaking during the ascetic days of the Puritan movement in the mid-17th century.
On Wednesday, Mr. Johnson stuck by his pledge to lift some key restrictions for a few precious days between Dec. 23 and 27 — a decision that attests to his deep-seated desire not to be seen as the Ebenezer Scrooge of Downing Street, as well as to the atavistic appeal of the Christmas holiday in this otherwise secular country.
Mr. Johnson has not wavered even after new cases surged in London, which prompted the government to put the capital under stricter rules between now and Dec. 23. Nor has he backed down after two British medical journals warned of potentially dire consequences of easing the measures over Christmas
“The Christmas debate has really brought out the argument between those who believe it is all about preventing deaths and those who believe there have to be other considerations,” said Jonathan Sumption, a historian and former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court who is a vocal critic of the lockdowns.
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