Meeting up with family for a few days at Christmas is not worth the risk of ‘burying’ friends and relatives in the New Year, a leading health expert has warned.
Professor of public health, Gabriel Scally, said the country has ‘not had nine months of sacrifices to throw it away at Christmas’, amid reports that Downing Street is considering relaxing measures between December 24 – 28.
SAGE scientists warned that for every day ‘off’ from restrictions, another five will be needed to offset the spread of the virus – meaning the country would face almost another month of lockdown.
Prof Scally told Good Morning Britain: ‘People are talking about needing 25 days of tight restrictions to make up for the five days of jollity over Christmas – and it’s not just the 25 days, that doesn’t matter that much compared to the virus spreading and people getting infected.
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‘There is no point having a very merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February.
‘We need to think very seriously about Christmas and how we’re going to spend it. It’s too dangerous a time and an opportunity for the virus to spread.’
Another leading scientist echoed Prof Scally’s concerns, saying that meeting up with family will be like ‘throwing fuel’ on the coronavirus fire and could have ‘substantial risks’ on elderly relatives.
SAGE member Professor Andrew Hayward attacked the Government for its ‘inconsistent’ messaging and said too much emphasis has been put on allowing the public to have a Christmas that’s as close to normal as possible.
The professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London (UCL) warned there is a ‘cost’ for families gathering together indoors.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch Covid.
‘My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas.
‘We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.’
He added that the country is on ‘the cusp’ of being able to protect grandparents with a vaccine and it would be ‘tragic’ to throw away the gains made in suppressing coronavirus for only a few days.
Prof Hayward said the things people need to do to ‘stay safe and to keep their loved ones safe are relatively simple’ and warned against close indoor contact with people from different households.
The Government is still working out details of how people can come together over the festive period, with Downing Street saying families should be able to meet up after a ‘difficult year’.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said today that a final decision will be made as close to the end of England’s national lockdown as possible.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The best time is to make those decisions about how we can get together for Christmas, how we can get through this festive period, is when we have seen the impact of this lockdown on the figures…
‘The best time for me to give you better advice, for the Government to make that decision, is as close to the 2nd of December as possible.
‘I know some people would wish to know earlier, but if we were to do it now, and the facts were changing on the ground, we’ll end up having to change it again.’
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