Experts on whether it will be safe for families to meet this Christmas

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson says this Christmas ’tis the season to be jolly careful’, but it appears the coronavirus restrictions will be eased over the festive season.

In a joint approach across all four nations of the UK, it is expected people will be allowed to mix households for larger than usual indoor gatherings.

The rules are expected to be eased for up to five days over the Christmas period, with people from two, three or possibly four households allowed to meet indoors for parties, meals and other Christmas festivities.

The changes look set to be announced this week, with England moving out of lockdown on December 2 into a new tiered restriction system.

The Mirror has spoken to two experts to find out whether it will be safe for us to meet with families at Christmas – whatever the rules.

Dr Mike Tildesley is an expert in infection modelling at Warwick University and Azeem Majeed is professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London.

Dr Tildesley said: “We need to think about people’s well-being and mental health, and allow families to be together at Christmas.

“But to do that we need to have strict rules in place in the run-up to and after Christmas so we can mitigate for that.

“Most importantly, if three or four households are allowed to be together, those households need to be exclusive. You can’t go to meet your mates down the pub then go home to see your granny and all these family members.”

Prof Majeed said: “My view is that the restrictions should remain in place through the Christmas and New Year period, based on the local community infection rate. Easing the restrictions too quickly risks undoing all the gains we have made during the lockdown.

Dr Tildesley agrees that any increase in mixing is going to cause more cases, and ultimately, hospitalisations and deaths.

He said: “If we tighten restrictions in the run-up to Christmas, then hopefully we can keep the risk of that extra mixing as low as possible”

Dr Tildesly added: “I think we need a tightening up of mixing between households in the three weeks before Christmas, which would mean tougher rules than the previous Tier 1 everywhere.”

And he said easing the rules will mean it is more likely people stick to them.

He said: “If you have very tight restrictions in place, then people may disobey them in large numbers. But if you have some relaxation of the rules, along with a very clear message, you will get a relatively high level of adherence.

Dr Tildesley points out there will be other risks around Christmas – including Christmas shopping and church services.

Prof Majeed said: “Any indoor mixing poses risks and activities such as singing in indoor spaces have been shown to lead to increased risks of infection.

“It may be possible to open churches in some parts of England where local infection rates are low and where good infection control measures are followed.”

Dr Tildesley said: “People just need to be aware of the risks and take sensible precautions. Just because the rule might say three or four households can meet, it doesn’t mean that number of households have to mix.”

Prof Majeed said: “I would be cautious about large, indoor Christmas events – particularly if you have elderly relatives or relatives with serious medical problems.”

Dr Tildesley also recommends taking precautions above and beyond what the Government advises.

He said: “Isolating for a few weeks before Christmas is sensible if you can

“I would never advocate taking children out of school unless you have to, but if there’s a particularly vulnerable relative people should do what they can to minimise the risk.”

Prof Majeed said: “Actions to reduce the risk indoors include avoiding overcrowding so that physical distancing can be maintained, ensuring that ventilation is good as the risk of infection is much higher in poorly ventilated spaces, and practising good hygiene, such as regular handwashing.”

Dr Tildesly added: “Do what you can to minimise the risk.”

Prof Majeed said: “Once a vaccination programme is in place, this will allow a return to a more normal society, resulting in a much better Christmas experience for everyone next year in 2021.”



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