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‘Tis the season to be jolly cautious

Getting swept by the festive cheer after a difficult year is tempting, but COVID-19 could be under the Christmas tree.

With so much of normality lost this year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people are not willing to give up Christmas too. Decorations have been selling out quickly: farms predict 10 million Christmas trees will be sold this year – up from the usual 8 million. Christmas songs hit the UK charts earlier than ever: All I Want for Christmas is You re-entered the Top 40 in mid-November.

Twinkling lights and festive music are a welcome escape from a year which has been painful for so many of us. But it would be best if the family Christmas dinner takes place over Zoom.

As it stands, up to three households will be allowed to mix between 23 and 27 December – including staying overnight. While such relaxation of the rules is more than welcome, it should be noted that the R-number is currently as high as 1.1 in some areas of the country, meaning that cases could rise exponentially. And with travelling between low and high-risk areas and spending a lot of time indoors, risk of infection increases too. 

Although the majority of the public will be responsible and socially distance as much as they can before travelling to see loved ones or self-isolate if they feel unwell, the possibility of asymptomatic transmission remains. The discovery of a new, possibly more infectious variant of the coronavirus in South England is also concerning. Travelling could accelerate the spread of the new strain and drive the epidemic in another direction.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year to show we care about each other even if it means being apart on Christmas Day”

Not being cautious over Christmas could bring about a third wave of infections in January and February and possibly another lockdown – the toughest virus measure we all wish to avoid. NHS Providers have urged the public to think carefully about having more social contact during the holiday season, especially in light of recent events in the US. Following Thanksgiving, cases and deaths there have surged and daily infections have been exceeding 200,000.

Of course, vaccine news has offered some hope and restrictive measures have helped keep the virus under control. Hardly won gains must not be squandered when we are so close to getting normality back. Discipline will be required in the next couple of month and, crucially, in the next two weeks.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to show we care about each other even if it means being apart on Christmas Day.