- Was the government right to announce an easing of Covid-19 restrictions during Christmas?
When the current lockdown in England ends, it’s likely the government will introduce a new system of tiered restrictions. My view is that these 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. Greater social mixing indoors over the Christmas and New Year holidays will inevitably lead to an increase in Covid-19 infections.
- Could allowing mixing of households actually mean people will die as a result?
Most person to person transmission of Covid-19 infection occurs within households. This is the rationale for the government’s policy of stopping different households from mixing with each other indoors. Allowing mixing of households indoors will inevitably lead to an increase in infections, which would be very serious for more vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with major medical problems, who are at greatest risk of serious illness and death if they contract Covid-19.
- Won’t locking down during January make up for the Christmas easing?
We need sustainable measures to control Covid-19 rather than “stop-start” measures.
- Isn’t Christmas too important for people’s mental health and well-being to deny them the chance to celebrate it as normal?
Christmas is a very important part of our social fabric. We need to think how we can allow people to celebrate without risking their health and the health of more vulnerable people.
- Can’t we trust people to still be responsible and limit contact with their elderly relatives even if restrictions are eased?
Most people will be mindful about the health of elderly relatives and will take precautions to prevent them from falling ill even if restrictions are eased.
- If restrictions stay in place, won’t there be more risk of people rebelling against the rules and wilfully disobeying them?
There is a risk of that some people won’t follow the rules but the vast majority of people will be sensible and follow the local restrictions that are in place. With positive news about developments in vaccines, we may be able to live much more normally from around Easter onwards. It’s important we retain our discipline and follow rules for these next few months until sufficient people have been vaccinated against Covid-19, allowing a degree of “herd immunity” to develop, which will lead to lower infection rates.
- Would there be any risks involved in opening up churches for Christmas services?
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 though to open churches in some parts of England where local infection rates are low and where good infection control measures – such as physical distancing and restricting the numbers who can enter a church – are followed.
- Won’t elderly people be getting vaccinated before Christmas anyway?
Although we have had positive news about vaccines recently, no vaccine is yet currently licensed for use in the UK. Assuming a vaccine can be rapidly licensed and is available for use from December onwards, we won’t have enough doses of the vaccines to have a major impact on the pandemic in 2020. All the current vaccines we have heard about require two doses a few weeks apart. It’s only when a large proportion of people have been fully immunised with two doses of vaccine will we see the effect of vaccination and this is likely to take a few months to achieve.
- Even if they allow us to have a big family Christmas, should we?
I would be cautious about large, indoor Christmas events – particularly if you have elderly relatives or relatives with serious medical problems.
- I want my whole family together at Christmas. What can I do to reduce the risks? (Should we self-isolate 2 weeks before? Take the kids out of school earlier etc. Is there anything we can do inside the house to reduce risk?)
Self-isolation can help but does not entirely eliminate the risk of infection. It’s not a good idea to disrupt children’s education by taking them out of school. 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.
- Should we still get together for Christmas if the households have to travel from different parts of the UK to meet up?
It’s better to “stay local” if you can for Christmas. 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.