Public should rethink Christmas plans as Covid cases rise, experts warn

‘Heading towards disaster’ 

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Friday 11 December 2020 16:34
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The public should “rethink Christmas” in light of surging infection rates in parts of Britain and a possible third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, experts on the Independent Sage group have warned.  

The panel, led by Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said that just because ministers had told people they could meet up did not mean they should nor that it was necessarily safe to do so.  

Coronavirus restrictions are to be eased across the UK for five days around Christmas.  

But the Independent Sage group warned there was a “very real danger" of a third wave of the pandemic if too many people take advantage of the new rules, which will allow three households to come together temporarily.  

Meeting up outdoors is “far safer” than indoors, the group cautioned.  

They also called on ministers to support such gatherings with a fund for outdoor community events.  

“Right now we are heading towards disaster,” said Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews.   

“Given high levels of infection across the country and the increasing levels in some areas (such as London) it is inevitable that if we all do choose to meet up over Christmas then we will pay the price in the New Year.”

He added: “We need an urgent rethink about the Christmas break. Government must clarify the risks involved in indoor mixing and stress the fact that households can get together doesn’t mean that they should. 

"They should provide the information and support to help people make the decisions that best keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. And for many of us, the right decision will be to show our love by waiting until we can meet and hug and celebrate without danger.”

 The first minister of Wales has said another lockdown may have to be introduced there “immediately” after Christmas if cases are not brought under control.

Mark Drakeford warned the virus was “spreading faster than our models had predicted” and said the position was now “very serious indeed”.  

Wales has announced a series of measures designed to cut infection rates, including that secondary schools will shut their doors next week. 

In England pupils in London and other areas with high rates are to be tested in a bid to identify more cases and limit outbreaks. 

Earlier this week ministers debated whether or not to revise the plans to ease restrictions over Christmas. 

Mr Drakeford said the “decision was that we shouldn't do so - many people will have made plans on the basis of what was announced - but that we would reinforce the message, each one of us would reinforce the message, that that extra freedom for those five days must be used responsibly.”

 

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