Fears of another Covid Christmas lockdown are rife since the number of cases in the UK have spiked recently, but experts say there are things we can do to ensure festivities go ahead. Most recently, health secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Breakfast that this winter will be different to the last, providing people have their vaccines and make use of regular testing.
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"For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas - which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas - if we want let’s just keep playing our part," he explained.
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Downing Street, meanwhile, has affirmed that there is "no plan to move to plan B" (which includes mandatory face masks, working from home and vaccine passports).
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Others aren't so sure. Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), believes that more stringent covid restrictions are required, and warned of a Christmas lockdown.
"I'm very fearful that we're going to have to have another lockdown Christmas if we don't act soon," he said during an appearance on BBC Breakfast. "We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There's no point in delaying. If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you're going to get things under control.
"We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can get back together. If that's what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down."
As it stands, the UK is currently in 'plan A', whereby we rely on the vaccine rollout to lift us out of the pandemic, but will we be in lockdown at Christmas 2021? NHS GP Dr Punam Krishan tells us more.
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Will we have a lockdown Christmas 2021?
Dr Punam explains that a lockdown could come from the pressure on the NHS as rates rise. "The rates have been fluctuating but on an upward trajectory. The reasons have been multifactorial including more travel, opening up of hospitality and entertainment venues as well as schools returning back to normality," she explains. "This was inevitable however we now have, in the midst, rising numbers of other non-viral seasonal infections which is contributing to weakening of immune systems which can make you more susceptible to catching the fast-spreading COVID virus.
"At the moment, a lockdown is still being reserved as a last resort and every effort is being put into encouraging the public to do everything they can to be vigilant and avoid catching COVID. However, if cases continue to rise, meaning that there will be an increase in the number of hospitalisations and deaths, this will put unprecedented pressures on the NHS which we must avoid at all costs."
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What are the Covid rules for Christmas 2021?
Plan A Covid restrictions UK
Plan A is currently in place in the UK, which involves booster jabs for the most vulnerable, a single dose vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds, all unvaccinated people to get double jabbed, and the encouragement of flu jabs and Covid testing systems.
Plan A in the UK relies on the rollout of vaccines
Plan B Covid restrictions UK
The government has consistently argued that there are no plans for another lockdown, but plan B may well be enforced. This includes:
- Mandatory face-masks
- Working from home
- Vaccine passports
Communicating the need for caution (some elements of this have already come into effect, after health secretary Sajid Javid warned the public of potential for rising infections.
Dr Punam tells us the UK will only be subject to tighter restrictions if "the NHS comes under unsustainable pressure", and so the main restrictions as it stands are:
- 1metre-plus social distancing guidelines
- Face coverings not a legal requirement but encouraged in crowded places
How can we avoid a Christmas lockdown 2021?
"Everyone must do what they can to protect themselves and each other," advises Dr Punam. She adds that this includes:
- Getting vaccinated
- Getting your booster jab if eligible
- Getting your flu jab if eligible
- Rigorous hand-washing
- Wearing a face mask
- Abiding by 1m-plus social distancing rules
- Avoiding mixing indoors
What is the best case Covid scenario for Christmas 2021?
"That we keep case numbers down, everyone who is eligible for the vaccines has had their vaccines," Dr Punam tells HELLO!. "That the NHS is not under unsustainable pressure, and we can all celebrate Christmas with our loved ones freely without any threats or anxieties about lockdowns."
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What is the worst case Covid scenario for Christmas 2021?
According to Dr Punam: "We have another lockdown, the NHS can’t sustain the workload, that we have more cases of covid giving way to more variants which may or may not be immune to the vaccine and we have more death rates." She concludes, however, that this is "avoidable" if we all do our bit.
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