‘No use having a good Christmas if you’re burying friends in the new year’: Scientist’s stark warning over easing lockdown

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2-min read
Pedestrians, some wearing face masks or coverings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk past Christmas lights on Oxford Street in central London on November 17, 2020. - Britain has been the worst-hit nation in Europe recording more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths from some 1.2 million positive cases. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A scientist has warned against easing lockdown restrictions over Christmas. (Getty)

An expert has issued a stark warning over relaxing COVID-19 measures at Christmas.

Professor Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage advisory group, has said people should not fly home for the festive period or it could lead to more deaths.

His warning comes after reports the government could ease rules to allow people to see family at Christmas.

Prof Scally, president of the epidemiology and public health section at the Royal Society of Medicine, was speaking in relation to thousands of people potentially returning home to Ireland.

He told Virgin Media News: "It's no use having a good Christmas if you're burying friends and relations in the new year."

He added: "I really think international travel should be kept to the absolute minimum for the next few months, including Christmas.”

Watch: Government adviser 'very keen' to have 'normal' Xmas

Prof Scally said airports are normally packed during the festive period and that if there were any crowds this year the virus would thrive.

He said: "Stick to Zoom, phone calls, whatever you can do to stay in touch, but do stay in touch, that's important."

Other experts have said Christmas easing is possible if we have tighter restrictions until then and afterwards.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, Dr Susan Hopkins, a member of the government’s official Sage scientific advisory group, was asked if “some sort of Christmas” was possible.

She responded: "I think it is. Some of the Sage advice previously said that for every day we release, we will need two days of tighter restrictions.

“Coming into Christmas, we will need to be careful about the number of contacts we have, and to reduce transmission before Christmas and get cases as low as possible.

“Hopefully the government will make the decision to allow us to have some mixing, but we will wait and see what that is."

Pedestrians wearing face masks or coverings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk past Christmas trees in Covent Garden in central London on November 17, 2020. - Britain has been the worst-hit nation in Europe recording more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths from some 1.2 million positive cases. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The government may ease restrictions this Christmas, according to reports. (Getty)

Suggesting tight restrictions will need to be reimposed after Christmas, Dr Hopkins said: “Then, I think, once we have got past the Christmas period, if there has been a release and some socialisation, we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”

The government is considering proposals to extend family support bubbles to two or three households for a few days over the festive period, the Times newspaper has reported.

England’s national lockdown is set to end on 2 December, after which the government is expected to reimpose its tiered system of local restrictions, which are due to be announced next week.

But Independent Sage member Dr Kit Yates said he hadn’t seen enough data from the Downing Street briefing to convince him the country could be brought safely out of lockdown in two weeks.

Watch: Exceptions to England's second national lockdown

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