Christmas behaviour will have ‘big impact’ on when normal life returns, scientists say

Behaviour during the festive period will have a “big impact” and might mean it will take the country “much longer” for life to return to normal after the pandemic, the lead researcher behind the Oxford vaccine has warned.

The vaccinologist says Christmas attitudes will affect how our lockdown situation pans out (photo:Glasgow, Shutterstock).

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said that travelling and mixing with others over Christmas could hinder the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the new year.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Prof Gilbert said life could be “more or less” back to normal by next summer – but that depends on transmission rates in January.

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Between December 23 and 27, restrictions are due to be relaxed across the UK to allow families to form “Christmas bubbles” and spend time together over the festive period.

Yet there are concerns from the vaccinologist that this could prolong lockdown periods across the UK.

Prof Gilbert used America as an example of holidays largely increasing infection rates.

She said: “What we’ve seen in the US is that after Thanksgiving, when people were travelling and mixing, there’s now been a big surge in infections and they’re seeing 3,000 deaths a day now – the highest rate there’s ever been in any country.”

“If we have that kind of thing happening over the Christmas holidays in this country, with very high transmission rates then possible in January, it’s going to take so much longer to get things back to normal.

“Because partly, all the vaccination clinics will be disrupted. It’s not possible to run vaccination clinics when staff are off sick, and there’s a very high transmission rate affecting people’s ability to come to be vaccinated.

“So I think what we do over the next few weeks is really going to have a big impact on how long it’s going to take to get back to the normal.”

She added: “Hopefully we could be more or less back to normal by the summer, but that’s not going to be possible if we’re starting from a very bad position in January.”

On Saturday, the Government announced 519 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK, with a further 21,502 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus.

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