Christmas may be ‘problematic’ as Covid pandemic not over, warns Jonathan Van-Tam

UK at ‘half-time in extra-time’ in tackling virus, says England’s deputy chief medical officer

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 03 November 2021 15:35
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<p>Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned Christmas may be ‘problematic’ as the Covid pandemic is not quite over yet</p>

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned Christmas may be ‘problematic’ as the Covid pandemic is not quite over yet

Christmas could be “problematic” as the Covid pandemic is “not quite over” yet, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam urged people to be cautious over winter and the Christmas period, but suggested easier times could be just a few months away.

Asked how a Christmas lockdown could be prevented, the expert told the BBC: “Christmas, and indeed all of the darker winter months, are potentially going to be problematic.

“And I think the things that are really going to determine this are, first of all, human behaviours and caution over the winter months, but particularly in the next couple of months if you’re talking about Christmas, so it’s how cautious we are. The next one is how well the vaccination programmes go.”

Prof Van-Tam compared the situation in the UK to being midway through the last half-hour of an extended football match.

“I would say we’re kind of half-time in extra-time, and I think the final whistle in terms of – I can’t predict it – but my personal view is that we’ve got a few more months to run, and I think we’ll be in a much calmer set of waters by spring,” he said.

“But I think, until then – caution, be very careful, this is not quite over – and vaccines, boosters, really important.”

Prof Van-Tam said it is still the case that “too many people believe that this pandemic is now over” despite the UK still having “very high” rates of Covid-19.

Turning specifically to the figures, he said hospital admissions had plateaued in the last four days, while there has been a small drop in the number of patients being treated for Covid-19 on wards.

“What that tells me is that we have to just wait and see a bit longer – this could be a pause before things go up; it could be the very first signs that things are beginning to stabilise, but at a high rate,” he said.

The professor urged people to get Covid jabs, boosters and flu vaccines, adding: “On top of that, we have to keep a weather eye on the absence of new variants of concern, and that’s something that is always out there with this virus.”

He emphasised that “nobody should be forced into a position where they’ve got to reveal any data about their health if they don’t want to” – but said he encouraged high-profile people such as footballers to stress the importance of vaccination.

Prof Van-Tam’s comments came during a 30-minute slot answering listener questions on BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 5 live.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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