Multiple households will be able to celebrate Christmas together under one roof after an agreement to ease lockdown restrictions was struck between the government and devolved first ministers.Between 23 and 27 December, restrictions will be lifted to allow up to three households to form a Christmas “bubble”. Under the temporary measures, people can mix in homes, places of worship and outdoor spaces but cannot visit pubs or restaurants together.
Boris Johnson had “originally hoped to allow families to get together for a week” but “had to water down the plan following opposition from leaders in Scotland and Wales”, The Telegraph reports.
Announcing the plans, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the scheme “will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year”.
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“We know that the Christmas period this year will not be normal but, following constructive discussions between the UK government and the devolved administrations, families and friends will now have the option to meet up in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish,” he added.
People will not have to self-isolate before meeting other households, even if someone within their bubble is among the “extremely clinically vulnerable” group deemed most at risk from serious illness.
However, the government is “expected to issue guidance that urges people to reduce unnecessary contact in the run-up to the five-day period”, HuffPost says. Despite reassurance from politicians, health experts are fearful that the government’s plans could derail efforts to curb the crisis.
While giving evidence to a Commons committee shortly before this week’s announcement, Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the plan could cause chaos.
“I guess I have to speak bluntly - the virus doesn’t care if it’s Christmas,” she said. “We still have pretty high prevalence across the country. It is risky for people to mix indoors with alcohol with elderly relatives at this point in time.”
Last month Andrew Hayward, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, warned that mixing different generations indoors posed a “substantial risk”, especially for older people “who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying” if they catch Covid-19.
“We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this,” he added. Last month, scientists said that for every day that measures are eased over Christmas, an additional five days could be needed to reduce infection rates after the celebrations are over.
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