'Don't kill your parents just for a normal Xmas': Experts warn festive visits to loved ones will throw 'fuel on COVID fire' - as No10 says it WILL let families meet but they face a 25-DAY January lockdown to pay for it
Letting Britain have a near-normal Christmas would only 'throw fuel on the fire' and put older generations in harms way, a top scientist warned today as ministers admitted they 'don't want to be grinches' and Number 10 said it will let families meet indoors over five days.
Professor Andrew Hayward, a SAGE member and infectious diseases expert at University College London, warned allowing up to four households to mix between December 24 to 28, saying it posed a 'substantial' risk of spreading the virus to the elderly for whom infection rates are 'much lower'.
圣人成员、伦敦大学学院(University College London)传染病专家安德鲁·海沃德(Andrew Hayward)教授警告称，在12月24日至28日期间，允许最多四个家庭混合使用，这构成了将病毒传播给感染率“低得多”的老年人的“巨大”风险。
'My personal view is we're putting far too much emphasis on having a near normal Christmas,' he said. 'We know respiratory infections peak in January, so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.'
Adding to protests over the proposed festive break in restrictions, Professor Gabriel Scally, an expert in public health at Bristol University, warned there was 'no point in having a very merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February'.
布里斯托尔大学(Bristol University)公共卫生专家加布里埃尔·斯卡利(Gabriel Scally)教授警告称，“过一个非常欢乐的圣诞节，然后在1月和2月埋葬朋友和亲戚是没有意义的”，这加剧了对拟议中的节日限制措施的抗议。
'We need to think very seriously about Christmas and how we're going to spend it,' he said. 'It’s too dangerous a time and opportunity for the virus to spread.'
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said today he did not want to be the 'Grinch that stole Christmas', but added the Government was also aiming to 'protect lives'. He said: 'Come December 2 the decisions will be made that we will try and get that balance right, but ultimately we will try and make sure we protect our NHS and safeguard lives.'
The Prime Minister has also said it is his 'desire to try and allow loved ones to have Christmas together' after a tumultuous year that has seen families kept apart for months on end.
The warning comes as Oxford University reveals its Covid-19 vaccine triggers a 'robust' response from the immune system and appears to work in older people, based on results from second-phase trials.
It marks another breakthrough in the race to develop a vaccine after jabs made by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech were both revealed to be around 95 per cent effective within the past week.
The NHS could start dishing out the vital jabs to healthcare workers and the elderly as early as December, with further shots expected to be administered to wider sections of the population in the new year.
Britain recorded 19,609 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, down from 2.2 per cent on the 20,051 announced on Tuesday and 14.6 per cent lower than the 22,950 figure last Wednesday. There were also 529 deaths, which is 11.5 per cent less than the 598 on Tuesday and 11.1 per cent smaller than the 595 a week ago.
In other coronavirus developments:
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Professor Hayward said it would be 'tragic' to throw away the opportunity to protect those we love through vaccination and the gains made during lockdown by 'trying to return to normality over the holidays'.
When asked whether the festive freedom would equal weeks of tighter restrictions for Britons, he said: 'Well, I'm not a mathematical modeller but that's the process that's done.
'One looks at the contact rates across society and works out how many infections that would lead to and how many less contacts you would have during lockdown in order to achieve a normal Christmas.
'I think there is a cost but when policy is undulating between stay at home to save lives, eat out to help out, the tier system, the second lockdown and now proposals for an amnesty on social distancing, it's a highly inconsistent message.
'Whereas, in fact, the things that people need to do to stay safe, and to keep their loved ones safe, are relatively simple.
'Avoid, as far as possible, indoor closed contact with people outside of your household, avoid crowded places and protect the most vulnerable by not putting them at unnecessary risk.'
But suggesting a glimmer of hope for some relaxation of rules over Christmas he said the 'economy' also needed to be considered by policymakers.
'I think to a large extent it is, it is a very difficult balance.
'We need to be very mindful of the fact that this last period of the year is absolutely critical economically for many businesses, so I think we do need to find a way of allowing them to function but in a responsible way that is highly socially distanced.'
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace signalled on ITV's Good Morning Britain today that the Government did not want to steal Christmas, but also wanted to protect people's lives.
He said: 'I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas – I’m not campaigning for that.
'I would love all of us to be able to have a Christmas, but more than anything I want us to get through this Covid and try and get this country back to normal and I want to protect lives.'
A health chief has warned England could face 25 days of extra restrictions for just five days of festive freedom in which Britons could throw off the lockdown shackles and gather indoors for celebrations.
Under plans being considered by ministers, churches are also expected to be allowed to hold Christmas Day services, with the Church of England saying 'the message of light shining in the darkness' is urgently needed.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Public Health England's top doctor Susan Hopkinssaid she believes 'it is possible' — though she warned that for every day measures are loosened, it will require five days of tighter restrictions to reverse the damage.
But one Tory MP warned it would be better forthe Prime Minister to cancel Christmas and be branded the 'Grinch' rather than risk a spike in Covid-19 deaths that could paint him as the 'Grim Reaper'. They said: 'He's going to be blamed for it (a rise in deaths). It is always in mid to late January you get the NHS winter crisis.'
Speaking at a Downing street briefing yesterday, PHE's top medic Dr Hopkins said: 'We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible. That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period, and even in early December, to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.
'A final decision, of course, will rest with the Government and we look forward to hearing what those plans are.'
Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean said SAGE had also been examining the potential relaxation of measures over Christmas. She told Wednesday's conference: 'We did send some advice in over the weekend. But we genuinely don't know what decisions have been made.'
副首席科学顾问安吉拉·麦克莱恩(Dame Angela McLean)表示，Sage也一直在研究圣诞节期间放松措施的可能性。她在周三的会议上说：“我们确实在周末提供了一些建议。但我们真的不知道做出了什么决定。”
The intention in Number 10 is clearly to deliver a Christmas as close to normal as possible, with Mr Johnson's official spokesman telling the briefing:'I think the PM has been clear in his desire to try and allow families to have Christmas together. We accept it won't be a normal Christmas but as I say the PM has been clear in his desire for families to be able to see each other.
'I think the point I would make is we are taking the tougher measures now to drive down the level of transmission, to drive down the number of patients admitted to hospital and then ultimately, those who end up on ICU and sadly die.
'We are taking these tougher measures now so that, as I say, the PM has given his clear intent to allow families to spend Christmas together.'
Emphasising the importance of driving down infections before Christmas in order to allow the relaxation of restrictions, Dr Hopkins said Britons should be 'very careful' about the number of contacts they have in order to reduce transmission before the festive period to 'Get our cases as low as possible'.
Asked about what Christmas may look like, she told the Government data briefing: 'This is a decision that will be made by Government and I know that they're working hard to develop an outline of what that will look like and what the new tiers will look like post-December 2 and what Christmas will look like.'
She added:'Hopefully the Government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing but we will wait and see what that is.
'And then I think, once we have got past the Christmas period, if there's been a release and some socialisation we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.'
An insider told the Daily Telegraphyesterday two proposals are being discussed for the festive period - extending the 'rule of six' over Christmas or permitting households to mix.
The source said it was 'more likely' the Government would decide to allow multiple households to get together 'for fear of people being left out.'
It added:'There's very much a hope that there can be a UK approach because there's a realisation that people have families in all four corners of the UK.
'It's important to give people hope as well after what has been a very difficult year for everyone.'
It is likely the total number of households, which has not been confirmed, would be at least three to include both sets of grandparents.
Graphs wheeled out at Wednesday's Government press conference showed hospital admissions for Covid-19 have dropped in the North West, North East and the Midlands, in another promising sign that the three-tiered approach was managing to curb the spread of the virus - especially Tier Three.