Covid-19 “doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas,” warned a leading public health expert.
Professor Devi Sridhar’s comments came when officials from the four British countries agreed that families from three households could celebrate the holidays together.
The plans were approved by leaders of all British countries at a COBRA meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Prof Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said it was “risky” to meet people indoors – especially when elderly relatives are around and alcohol may be involved.
But she said recent breakthroughs in vaccines could put the country in a “fundamentally different” position by March.
She told a joint meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee: “People want to hear emotionally reassuring messages.
They wanted to hear it over the summer that there wasn’t going to be a second wave, and they want to hear it now that Christmas will be normal.
‘I think I have to be blunt – the virus doesn’t care if it’s Christmas.
“We still have a fairly high prevalence across the country.
“It is risky for people to mix with alcohol indoors at this point with elderly relatives.”
When asked what she would advise in terms of Christmas, Prof Sridhar added, “What I would say to people, because I’m asked all the time, is, ‘Do you want to infect the people you love, or be responsible? are in your house? or bring it home for Christmas? ‘
“We’re in a pandemic, you can still see your family, you can still celebrate with your communities, but in safer ways.
So get outside – we know that outside is so much safer than inside, take a walk, eat outside.
“If you want to be indoors, ventilate, open your windows, ensure adequate air circulation.
You know, if you’re going to see older or vulnerable individuals, you can, if you can, isolate them for two weeks so you don’t expose them.
“If you really want to be extra careful, you can also do quick tests in addition to the incubation period.
‘But we’re in a pandemic and I think people need to recognize that it won’t be a normal Christmas – Christmas won’t be canceled – but it will feel fundamentally different.
“We don’t want to pay for Christmas with hospitalizations in January and deaths in February.”