Scientists Warn Against Christmas Gatherings


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Scientists Warn Against Christmas Gatherings

Scientists warn against Christmas gatherings in UK despite relaxed rules

Experts call on households to rethink plans amid fears over rising Covid cases in some areas

Scientists and government advisers have urged people to rethink Christmas plans and ignore the easing of Covid rules amid fears over rising cases and hospitalisations in parts of the UK

While “Christmas bubbles” let three households mix between 23 and 27 December, experts warned ministers were sending the wrong message by saying families must simply “follow the rules” – suggesting this could lead to a third wave with just weeks to go until mass vaccinations protect society’s most vulnerable.

Official data suggests Covid cases are rising in some parts of the UK, including London, raising concerns that more areas will need to be placed under tighter restrictions.

Hospitalisations have plateaued in the past week but are rising in some parts of the country including London and the south-east.

The data has led scientists warn against Christmas gatherings and urge people to rethink their festive plans.

“If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns,” said Prof Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.

Prof Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) and the Independent Sage group of experts, agreed. “One has got to respond to the situation as it is, not the situation as we’d like it to be,” she said, reiterating that people should think carefully about whether to meet up with others, and if they do, only meet outside. “If we really want to keep our loved ones safe, the best thing is not to see them.”

Prof Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews, who is also a member of Spi-B and Independent Sage, said a plea by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, for people to respect the rules this Christmas sent the wrong message.

“The message which says stick to the rules misses the point entirely,” he said, warning of a huge increase in infections even if everyone followed the rules to the letter. “The danger is when you say people can, you imply that it is safe and therefore they should.

Scientists have previously said that meeting in small spaces with poor ventilation and alcohol risks a perfect storm for transmission of the coronavirus.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference this week, Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, emphasised the need for caution, saying the country needed to “accept that Christmas is a period when we can do things, that’s the reason why the rules are being relaxed – but that doesn’t mean we should do things”.

Source: The Guardian