November 28, 2020

Coronavirus scientists warn the public to prepare for a low-key Christmas – Manchester Evening News

The public should prepare for a ‘low-key’ Christmas this year, public health experts have warned.

One said it would be ‘impossible’ to be in a good place with coronavirus by the end of the year, suggesting families should aim to have a ‘Covid-secure’ Christmas outdoors.

Ministers and those advising the government have this week said it’s too early to see the impact of the current national lockdown in England.

The four-week stringent measure is due to expire on December 2, however the government is still to decide its next move for the country.

Speaking to The Guardian in a personal capacity, Professor Catherine Noakes, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “We really have to be careful that we don’t just focus on what is going to happen in six weeks’ time.

“I know it is human nature to do that, but we will be better off planning for the longer duration and thinking of, actually, can we have a more low-key Christmas and new year this year and perhaps plan to do the bigger family celebrations in the summer when the risks are likely to be far lower for all sorts of reasons.”

Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, also shed little hope that the current lockdown will quash the spread of the virus when speaking to the paper.

He said the aim should be for a safe Christmas outdoors, or involving well-ventilated homes.

He argued: “We know that the [last] and even more severe lockdown did not get the virus under control, so how can we expect that this will bring the virus under control given that some things have not changed?

Prime Minister ‘looking at ways’ people can spend Christmas with family
(Image: PA)

“How can we be in a good place by Christmas? I think it is impossible.”

“Plant your Christmas tree in the garden this year, and open your presents underneath the tree outside with family, or something like that,” the professor said.

However Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday morning that ministers want to see a “significant easing” of coronavirus controls when the four-week lockdown is lifted, but suggested tighter controls may be needed in the top Tier 3.

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Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins, medical advisor of the coronavirus response, said in a Downing Street briefing on Monday that the new three-tier system may need to be “strengthened” over the winter months.

Although Tier 3 worked at reducing cases in the north, the leading doctor said that Tier 1 had “very little effect”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson on Tuesday said Downing Street was waiting on further data over the next week, but that the R number – the virus reproduction rate – had been coming down “in some parts of the country”.

A return to a tiered system of restrictions is planned, with decisions made on factors including the R number, the number of people in hospital beds and intensive care occupancy rates.

Boris Johnson is continuing efforts to allow people to see their families at Christmas, the spokesman added.

“We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.”