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As Christmas draws closer, infections rates are rising once more in parts of England, prompting scientists to issue fresh warnings about the dangers of taking advantage of the government’s relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over the festive period. We asked experts about their own Christmas plans.
Prof Graham Cooke
Professor of infectious diseases, Imperial College London
When the Brexit vote happened, my parents offered to vote in line with their grandchildren’s views as the decision was going to have the greatest impact on the kids. In a similar vein, I left the decision on Christmas to them, knowing that although they value the annual gathering, they would be carrying the risk. Slightly to my surprise, they were clear they wanted to wait until they’d been vaccinated. So we’ll be staying at home as a family within our bubble and getting together later – my best bet being Easter. Hopefully without the need for turkey.
Prof Beate Kampmann
Director of The Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Being from Germany, our main day is actually Christmas Eve, and I will be fortunate to celebrate our late-night tradition with my husband and son in north-west London.
There won’t be any change to the usuals as we tend to be just the three of us, with relatives living away from London, and we don’t like travelling across to various lunches over that period anyway. Hence we will be lighting the (real) candles on the tree on Christmas Eve, sit in candlelight and give each other small presents – before I head to the hospital on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as I have the joy of being on call for the paediatric infectious diseases services this year.
Hopefully we won’t have many sick kids in the hospital and no Covid crisis, so we can let them all come out of their rooms to see Father Christmas – usually one of our colleagues dressed up. Christmas in hospital sounds bad, but actually, on the kid’s ward it can be quite a joyful experience too.
Prof John Ashton
A former regional director of public health for north-west England and the author of Blinded by Corona
We will be having a small, nuclear family gathering in the Yorkshire Dales, with the immediate kids [who live with us] including my youngest son, who had Covid and has now recovered, and one of his school friends, who can’t go back to China and [is staying with us] for the school holiday.
We’ll keep it small, and I look forward to that because I am really despondent about how commercial Christmas has become. Maybe this Christmas will get people thinking about this over-consumption as well, as people have begun to think about sustainability through the pandemic.
Sadly I won’t be able to see my other sons and their families who are in France and in Liverpool. We’ll aim to Zoom or something. One of them will be kept busy as he is the director of public health for Liverpool.
I will be working on Christmas Day. I am working in the Covid hub in north Wales. I am one of the lead consultants there overseeing the outbreak control and testing and tracing.
Otherwise we will no doubt be watching films and having a modest family Christmas. We are very lucky, we have the fells and the open air, and just a natural, quiet Christmas.
Dr Zania Stamataki
Senior lecturer and researcher in viral immunology at the University of Birmingham
We have two little boys who are going to primary school, so we had planned to forgo a Christmas dinner with the grandparents to protect them from infection. Our plan was to meet with them later, after the children were able to isolate for a few days.
However, our children were asked by their school to isolate this week because of confirmed Covid cases in their year. The boys are missing out on Christmas celebrations with their school friends, but our relatives can now visit for Christmas dinner.
We will be sensible and isolate before we meet with family, to make sure everyone is safe. Looking forward to it!
Prof Trish Greenhalgh
Professor of primary care health sciences at Oxford University
I’ll be renting a cottage in the countryside with my husband. It’s got wifi and we’ll be connecting with family by Zoom.
In non-Covid times we would certainly have done the rounds of the relatives – his family Christmas Day, mine Boxing Day or vice versa – and we may have had one or both of our children staying with their partners. But this kind of interaction is precisely what we all need to avoid right now.
While the risk of any individual passing on the virus to their loved ones is small, the overall risk across the country is huge since one becomes two, two becomes four and so on until the excess infections runs into thousands.
But to be honest I’m not too worried. It’s been a hard year for us scientists and I’ll be glad to enjoy the solitude!
Prof Danny Altmann
Professor of immunobiology at Imperial College London:
Our take on this is that controlling a lethal virus easily trumps the desire to celebrate religious festivals, so just like people over the past months have had to rein in their wishes to celebrate Passover, Diwali, Eid, Hanukah, we’ll be taking it easy so as not to risk contributing to a massive spike in horrific cases, as happened on a grand scale after Thanksgiving festivities in the USA and Canada. It’s so predictable and just not worth it.
So we’ll be doing anything that’s compatible with a safe, socially distanced Xmas: no mixing of bubbles with other households, and all socialising beyond our immediate family will be by Zoom. There are loads of presents ready to wrap, all bought online. Doing our shopping online, we’ve been able to discover small businesses selling handmade cards and recycled wrapping. No Christmas tree this year as we deemed it non-essential shopping, so we may have a yucca as a stand-in. There’ll be lots of cooking and baking, and I’ve invested in various pairs of Scandinavian slipper-socks in the hope of a cosy, hygge, at-home Xmas.
Prof Stephen Griffin
Associate professor at Leeds University’s school of medicine
Just because you can do something it doesn’t mean you need to. Frankly, five days of mixing indoors with multiple households is bonkers.
Our Christmas interaction is going to be as safe as it can be. My wife is shielding, she’s on the at-risk critical list, and we are going to see one person, my wife’s dad, who is also shielding. Our kids are at school, so that’s a risk we have to take. It’s horribly disappointing not to be able to see your family, of course. We’re not in a position where, for example, we’re expecting a family member to not last a year – so I sympathise with that but my perspective is it’s one year … I can wait until next year.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘It’s just not worth it’: health experts on their Covid Christmas plans | Health