Warnings that there would need to be a January lockdown to make up for the temporary relaxing of coronavirus rules at Christmas were “made up without basis”, a government adviser has said.
Following reports that the government were mulling over plans to allow households to mix for several days over the Christmas period, experts suggested up to five days of lockdown would be needed at the start of 2021 for every day relaxed in December.
Dr Susan Hopkins, an epidemiologist from Public Health England (PHE) told a Downing Street briefing last week that we would need "two days of tighter measures" for each day of relaxed rules.
A spokesperson for PHE later clarified the comments saying that Hopkins “was quoting from previously published SAGE modelling” that “suggests five days of tighter restrictions would be needed for every one day of relaxation”.
“We do need to be careful at Christmas, but I don’t believe that one day of Christmas is five days of pain later. I think that was a made-up statement without any basis to it.”
Professor @timspector says the SAGE warnings about Christmas under Covid are exaggerated. #Peston pic.twitter.com/Olr5uURuHq
— Peston (@itvpeston) November 25, 2020
However, professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist from King’s College London, has now poured water over those warnings.
Speaking to ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday, Spector said: “I think there are local problems and I still think we do need to be careful at Christmas.
“But I don't believe this ‘one day of Christmas is five days of pain later’. I think that was a made-up statement with no basis to it.”
The government announced this week that people will be able to join “Christmas bubbles” to allow families to reunite over the festive period.
Watch: Public react to Christmas coronavirus rules
The UK government and devolved administrations agreed the approach despite concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
The temporary easing of measures will allow three households to mix in a bubble from 23 to 27 December, while social distancing will be relaxed within the bubbles, giving people the chance to hug friends and family for the first time in months.
A five-day easing would mean a potential 25-day period of tighter measures into January if the government was to follow advice from scientists.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace previously told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas – I’m not campaigning for that.
“I would love all of us to be able to have a Christmas, but more than anything I want us to get through this COVID and try and get this country back to normal and I want to protect lives.”
All four UK nations have agreed that from the 23rd to the 27th of December, you will be able to form a Christmas bubble of no more than three households.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 24, 2020
Boris Johnson acknowledged the new measures would not add up to a “normal Christmas” and urged people to exercise caution – particularly when meeting with the elderly or the vulnerable.
He said in a video posted on Twitter: “We can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful.
“I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone. It is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this time-limited special dispensation.”
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