Scientists say Britons should CANCEL Christmas gatherings

Britons have been warned to ‘rethink’ Christmas gatherings that could ‘risk infecting the vulnerable and elderly people we love’ by scientists who fear yet another wave of Covid-19 infections could hit in the new year.

Families across the UK can form a Christmas ‘bubble’ and spend the festive season with no more than three households between December 23 and 27. 

This allows Britons to travel between tiers for the purpose of joining their ‘bubble’, with groups permitted to meet in private homes, gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.  

But experts have warned the Government is sending the ‘wrong message’ by only asking families to ‘follow the rules’, with some suggesting a third wave of infections could be sparked in the new year.  

Areas such as London, which is in danger of moving into Tier 3, have experienced a surge in infections – with the case rate per 100,000 people at 191.8 on December 6 compared to 158.1 the previous week.

Scientists are urging Britons to ‘rethink’ their Christmas plans, insisting the ‘best thing’ to keep loved ones safe is to ‘not see them.’      

Britons have been warned to 'rethink' Christmas gatherings that are 'not worth the risk' by scientists who fear yet another wave of Covid-19 infections could hit the UK in the new year. Pictured: Shoppers in London today

Britons have been warned to 'rethink' Christmas gatherings that are 'not worth the risk' by scientists who fear yet another wave of Covid-19 infections could hit the UK in the new year. Pictured: Shoppers in London today

Britons have been warned to ‘rethink’ Christmas gatherings that are ‘not worth the risk’ by scientists who fear yet another wave of Covid-19 infections could hit the UK in the new year. Pictured: Shoppers in London today

In other coronavirus developments:  

  • Councils under England’s toughest coronavirus restrictions are to roll out rapid community testing programmes in a bid to cut Covid-19 transmission rates this winter 
  • Doctors administering the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine next week have been told to prioritise elderly patients from ethnic minorities and those who have underlying health conditions if there is high demand for the jab;
  • Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said as many as 40 per cent of care home staff could choose not to take the coronavirus vaccine as it is rolled out over the coming days;
  • Britain’s daily Covid-19 cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 on Thursday;
  • There were also 424 further deaths from coronavirus, marking a 15 per cent fall from last Friday’s figure of 504, as well as Thursday’s figure of 516. It means there have been 63,506 UK deaths from the disease in total 
  • SAGE, Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimated the R number across Britain to be between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ago 
  • The self-isolation period for contacts of a positive coronavirus case is to be cut from 14 days to 10 days from Monday in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The change already applies in Wales.

Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian: ‘If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns.’  

‘With a vaccine just weeks away, why risk infecting vulnerable and elderly people we love?’     

Professor Susan Mitchie, a psychologist at University College London and member of SAGE, added: ‘One has got to respond to the situation as it is, not the situation as we’d like it to be.’ 

And Professor Stephen Reicher, Government advisor in the SAGE sub-group dedicated to ensuring the following of public health measures, warned that a plea by health secretary Matt Hancock to stick to the rules ‘missed the point entirely’. 

‘The danger is when you say people can, you imply that it is safe and therefore they should,’ he said.

Professor Reicher added the Government advice should present the choice to meet with loved ones but warn that it is ‘dangerous’ and should only be done if necessary. 

He said: ‘There may be circumstances where there are other factors that make you think it is worth taking that risk – but people have got to do it knowing and being clear about what the risk is,; 

Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, has also warned that relaxing Covid restrictions for five days over the Christmas period is a ‘mistake’ that will have ‘consequences’.   

She said: ‘I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside, or do it in a very modest way. I’m also concerned about the travel, people going from high to low-prevalence areas.’

She told BBC Breakfast today: ‘I think it’s going to have consequences. I completely understand why governments are doing that. Behaviourally people are fed up.

Families across the UK can form a Christmas 'bubble' and spend the festive season with no more than three households between December 23 and 27. Pictured: People in Soho, London

Families across the UK can form a Christmas 'bubble' and spend the festive season with no more than three households between December 23 and 27. Pictured: People in Soho, London

Families across the UK can form a Christmas ‘bubble’ and spend the festive season with no more than three households between December 23 and 27. Pictured: People in Soho, London

Scientists are now urging Britons to 'rethink' their Christmas plans, insisting the 'best thing' to keep loved ones safe is to 'not see them.' Pictured: People wait outside a Zara store on Oxford Street, London before it had opened this morning

Scientists are now urging Britons to 'rethink' their Christmas plans, insisting the 'best thing' to keep loved ones safe is to 'not see them.' Pictured: People wait outside a Zara store on Oxford Street, London before it had opened this morning

Scientists are now urging Britons to ‘rethink’ their Christmas plans, insisting the ‘best thing’ to keep loved ones safe is to ‘not see them.’ Pictured: People wait outside a Zara store on Oxford Street, London before it had opened this morning

Pictured: Shoppers venture to Oxford Street for Christmas shopping early today as London teeters on the brink of Tier 3

Pictured: Shoppers venture to Oxford Street for Christmas shopping early today as London teeters on the brink of Tier 3

Pictured: Shoppers venture to Oxford Street for Christmas shopping early today as London teeters on the brink of Tier 3

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Tier 3 would ‘devastate’ London’s bars and restaurants 

The government was warned on Friday to think hard about the ‘devastating effect’ on the hospitality industry of coronavirus restrictions, as London teetered on the brink of Tier 3.

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.

MPs were briefed on Thursday night to ‘expect the worse’ after a surveillance survey by PHE revealed that the capital now had the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England. 

It is understood many MPs representing constituencies in the capital are poised to lobby Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep it in Tier 2.

They believe the death rates in London are comparatively low and the NHS is able to cope.

A move to Tier 3 would be devastating for the pubs, restaurants and shopping sectors, especially so soon after the second national lockdown. 

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The impact of the restrictions on the hospitality sector has been so severe that it has effectively halved the country’s economic growth. Ours is the only sector seeing real negative growth. 

‘The restrictions being placed on us are having a devastating effect and go well beyond anything being experienced in other sectors. The frightening reality is that these figures are going to look tame compared to those for November and December when the lockdown was in effect and as the new, harsher tier system began to bite. 

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‘If you’re meeting people indoors from other households, there’s poor ventilation, maybe older family members are in those bubbles, unfortunately because the virus hasn’t been eliminated… I think that means the Christmas period is a risk. 

‘From a public health perspective, I have to be perfectly honest, I think this is a mistake.’ 

It comes as Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases.  

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.   

London’s case rate per 100,000 people, which rose to 191.8 on December 6, means the capital is ahead of regions such as the West Midlands which are already in Tier 3 restrictions.

Today, the Mayor of London told Christmas shoppers to keep off public transport and wear face masks at all times as they splurge £1.7billion on the High Street.  

More than £3million is expected to be spent every minute over the nine hours of trading across Britain today as delays in online deliveries and an anticipated move to Tier 3 forces some to rush their festive shopping. 

Mr Khan told shoppers to ‘keep a two-metre distance wherever possible’ to stop the capital being plunged into the toughest level of restrictions next week.

In a joint statement with Cllr Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, he said: ‘We are appealing directly to Londoners – when out shopping it is essential that you follow the rules. 

‘You must wear a face covering in shops and keep a two-metre distance wherever possible. Try to avoid travelling on public transport during rush hour, and walk and cycle where you can. If you have symptoms – don’t take a chance and don’t go out. Self-isolate immediately and get a test.

‘Businesses across London have worked really hard to make their premises Covid-safe – but we must all play our part in following the rules. So this weekend shop safe.’ 

On Friday, Boris Johnson’s spokesman also urged shoppers to be cautious. 

Asked by MailOnline if shoppers should be careful when out on the High Street, he said ‘absolutely’. 

Britain’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 yesterday. 

Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street on Friday

Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street on Friday

Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street on Friday

Pictured: Revellers hit the streets of London last night as the capital teeters on the brink of Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions

Pictured: Revellers hit the streets of London last night as the capital teeters on the brink of Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions

Pictured: Revellers hit the streets of London last night as the capital teeters on the brink of Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions

MailOnline's analysis of Government figures show London is now recording more cases per day, for its size, than 27 of 61 authorities currently living under Tier Three curbs, including Nottingham, Leeds, Leicestershire, Bristol, Newcastle and Derby

MailOnline's analysis of Government figures show London is now recording more cases per day, for its size, than 27 of 61 authorities currently living under Tier Three curbs, including Nottingham, Leeds, Leicestershire, Bristol, Newcastle and Derby

MailOnline’s analysis of Government figures show London is now recording more cases per day, for its size, than 27 of 61 authorities currently living under Tier Three curbs, including Nottingham, Leeds, Leicestershire, Bristol, Newcastle and Derby

Mr Johnson’s spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, ‘I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic. 

‘We would urge the public to follow the guidelines in relation to their activity to ensure that we are able to continue to drive down the transmission rate and protect communities.’

However, he stopped short of telling shoppers to avoid busy times. 

‘I wouldn’t get into the discussions around telling people how to shop but I would just reiterate what we would say around ensuring that people follow the guidelines that are in place,’ he said. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted on Friday that Tier 3 measures were coming for London. 

‘My message to everybody in London is ‘let’s stick by the rules’ and not push the boundaries of the rules, but rather try to limit the spread of this infection because the case numbers are going up in parts of London, in parts of Essex, in parts of Kent, and we know what happens when case numbers go up, sadly more people end up in hospital and more people end up dying,’ he told LBC radio. 

Councils under England's toughest coronavirus restrictions are to roll out rapid community testing programmes in a bid to cut Covid-19 transmission rates this winter. Pictured: Where the testing schemes will take place

Councils under England's toughest coronavirus restrictions are to roll out rapid community testing programmes in a bid to cut Covid-19 transmission rates this winter. Pictured: Where the testing schemes will take place

Councils under England’s toughest coronavirus restrictions are to roll out rapid community testing programmes in a bid to cut Covid-19 transmission rates this winter. Pictured: Where the testing schemes will take place

Mr Johnson's spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, 'I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic

Mr Johnson's spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, 'I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic

Mr Johnson’s spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, ‘I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic

According to The Telegraph, experts and jail insiders believe London’s coronavirus outbreak could have been partly fuelled by prisons in Kent.

The newspaper pointed to how four of the top five areas with the highest infection rates in England – which sits on a commuting corridor to south-east London – are centred around the Kent borough of Swale and the Isle of Sheppey, where there are three prisons. 

One of those jails had one of the largest prison outbreaks of Covid-19 this autumn.  

A move into Tier 3 would be devastating for the pubs, restaurants and shopping sectors in London, especially so soon after the second national lockdown.

UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The impact of the restrictions on the hospitality sector has been so severe that it has effectively halved the country’s economic growth. Ours is the only sector seeing real negative growth.

‘The restrictions being placed on us are having a devastating effect and go well beyond anything being experienced in other sectors.

‘The frightening reality is that these figures are going to look tame compared to those for November and December when the lockdown was in effect and as the new, harsher tier system began to bite.’   

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