'A trade-off which will have a cost' - Scottish health experts warn of Covid-19 danger over Christmas

The planned five-day relaxation of Covid-19 rules over Christmas will come at a cost, Scottish health experts have warned.

A view of Buchanan Street in Glasgow City Centre during lockdown tier 4.

From December 23 to December 27 people will be able to travel throughout the UK to spend Christmas in groups of up to three households.

In Scotland one of these can be an extended household already in a support bubble.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

The Scottish Government has advised that the safest way to spend Christmas is staying within your own household, and doctors and scientists around Scotland have warned that the relaxation measures will come with a cost.

“Winter is going to be difficult. We're still going to have a large number of cases, a large number of admissions, and a large numbers of deaths,” said Professor Michael Griffin, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

"We must not take our foot off the pedal, making sure that we strictly socially distance, that we have hand hygiene, all those messages, because vaccines aren't going to make a difference to that.

"We can look forward to the spring, but winter is still a major danger. The five days over Christmas is a trade-off for getting family together, it’s a political decision and I completely understand that, but it will have a cost.

"We have to make sure that people understand that before and after, and during, people stick to that very important public health advice that the Scottish Government has been putting out all along."

Edinburgh University Chair of Global Public Devi Sridhar has repeatedly warned about the danger of a Christmas relaxation.

She wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Keep being asked questions about meeting/travel over the holidays that people want to hear an emotionally reassuring & comforting answer. I can't do that as a public health scientist right now & have to be straight, even if unpopular.

She added: “I really feel for NHS doctors, nurses, support staff & cleaners who have to show up each day & deal with whatever comes their way. It's like leaving your goalie alone on the pitch. It's a losing game. We all need to play our part to keep burden off health services.”

“Increased contact will result in increased risks, and we have to be very aware of this potential to expose more individuals to Covid-19,” said Professor Rowland Kao, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at Edinburgh University.

"This is a particular concern because mixing over the holiday period likely involves combinations of people that would not otherwise be in contact, including increased contact between age groups.”

Professor Stephen Reicher of St Andrews University said: “More mixing means more infection. People now have a choice as to whether to join up with others at Christmas, and we all need to think very carefully what is the best choice for ourselves, our families and our community.

“This isn’t about whether to ‘cancel Christmas’, it is what does the Christmas spirit mean this year. We all agree that the season is about family, about goodwill, about showing care for others. Perhaps, in the midst of a pandemic, we best show care for those we love by not hugging them rather than hugging them and waiting a little until it is safe to party."

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.