MEET UP with two other households at Christmas – and risk a deadly third coronavirus wave, a Sage expert has blasted.
Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist, claims that the limited five days of festivities will be "throwing fuel on the Covid fire".
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The Scrooge boffin admitted the holiday couldn't be banned but suggested Brits wait until Easter to hug their loved ones.
It comes after the UK Government and devolved administrations confirmed that three households will be able to mix from December 23 to 27.
Speaking on BBC2's Newsnight, Prof Hayward, said: "Effectively what this will be doing is throwing fuel on the Covid fire.
"I think it will definitely lead to increased transmission. It is likely to lead to a third wave of infection, with hospitals being overrun, and more unnecessary deaths.
Effectively what this will be doing is throwing fuel on the Covid fire
"Covid is the sort of disease that thrives on social contact, especially the close sorts of proximity, long duration, contact that you have in relax circumstances within a household.
"We are still in a country where we have got high levels of infection with Covid, particularly in young people.
"Bringing them together for hours, let alone days, with elderly relatives, I think, is a recipe for regret for many families."
'WAIT UNTIL EASTER'
Prof Hayward, who is a professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, and a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), continued: "Families have a choice here – my personal choice would be to wait safely.
"There's a vaccine coming, I will get together with my family when they've been vaccinated and we can have proper get together at Easter and for many other Christmases to come.
"I think the danger is, with the vaccine on the way, if we are not very careful over Christmas we are really in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on this one."
What can I do and not do at Christmas?
Can my gran and grandad join us for Christmas?
Any three households can join together to form a Christmas bubble – so granny and grandad can come round for the Turkey dinner.
But the government is urging Brits to show common sense and caution when interacting with very vulnerable people in their festive bubble.
Can I hug them or should we be socially distant?
While you can hug granny because social distancing rules are scrapped in festive bubbles, you should show caution, particularly if they are old or sick.
Can my grandparent leave a care home to join us?
If granny or grandad is in a care home and over 65, they cannot leave to join your new bubble.
They can if they are under 65 and get a negative Covid test.
What happens if we burst the bubble and the step-mum arrives unexpectedly?
This is against the rules. When three households come together to form a Christmas bubble it is exclusive – you cannot leave it and no one else can join it.
But if step-mum arrives, do not expect the cops to turn up at your door. Ministers are urging Brits to voluntarily abide by the rules – they are not expecting police to enforce them.
Is there a maximum number of people allowed in my Christmas bubble?
No, it’s just based on a maximum of three households.
How should I travel to see my Christmas bubble?
You will be able to travel across all tiers and across all four home nations but the Government is urging people to plan and book journeys in advance, with major disruption and capacity problems expected on the railways.
Can I see people outside of my bubble?
Yes – but only if you stick to the rules in your tier.
For Brits living in Tier 2 and 3 – which is expected to be the vast majority of the country – this means you can only meet up with people outdoors.
In Tier 1 you can meet up with people if you stick to the rule of six.
Can I go to the pub with my Christmas bubble?
No – you can only meet up with them in private homes, at Church or in a public space, such as a walk in the park.
You can go to the pub in tier 1 with up to six others inside. In tier 2 you can only go with your household inside, or up to six people outside.
In Tier 3 they will be closed.
What about New Year’s?
These bubbles do not apply to New Year’s, which will be governed by the regional tiers policy.
Can my household split up and form different bubbles?
Yes, a mum and dad could decide to spend Christmas separately by forming their own Christmas bubbles.
This also applies to a group of people in their 20s who share a flat but can all return to their family homes, for example. But this may only apply in England.
It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) also warned easing of restrictions will "almost certainly" lead to a rise in the infection rate.
The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a temporary easing of measures which will allow three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
Social distancing will be relaxed within the bubbles, giving people the chance to hug friends and family for the first time in months.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA UK council chair, said: "There is a careful balance to be struck when weighing up the risks associated with Covid-19 and the understandable wish to see loved ones this Christmas.
"This virus does not discriminate against certain days of the year.
This virus does not discriminate against certain days of the year
"Relaxing the rules on indoor mixing for a five-day period will almost certainly carry the risk of a rise in infection rate and possibly more hospitalisation and deaths, adding further pressure on the health service, doctors and NHS staff.
"With infections levels and hospitalisations still worryingly high, and the daily death toll in the second wave now rising, we do not want loved ones to become seriously ill, hospitalised or lives put at risk this Christmas.
"The priority now must be to support the public to adhere to stringent rules around physical distancing and infection control to drive down the infection rates further by Christmas.
"The lower the level of infection the less risk it will place for families to meet at Christmas."
Dr Nagpaul added that "it is absolutely vital" people adopt the necessary safety precautions if mixing with other households, such as ventilating rooms and limiting physical contact when masks are not worn.
'WE NEED IT'
But some experts have been more positive on allowing families to form Christmas bubbles.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it might be what is needed to "make it through the rest of winter".
He said: "Any relaxation of the restrictions over the Christmas period will almost inevitably lead to some increase in transmission, and therefore illness, hospitalisations and sadly deaths.
"The issue is whether that increased risk is tolerable in relation to the benefits."
Prof Hunter said there will be "some downward pressure" on transmission due to schools being closed for the Christmas break, while there could be a similar effect from the tier system "working well".
He added: "Providing that the new tier system is better managed than in October, any increase in cases could be relatively short-lived.
"After Christmas, we will still have to live through a few more months of restrictions at least.
"Christmas, whether or not we celebrate the day as a religious festival, may be what we need to make it through the rest of winter."
Boris Johnson has warned families they must make a "personal judgement" about the risks of coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones when forming a Christmas bubble.
The Prime Minister urged the public to "think carefully" over the festive period after it was confirmed that three households will be able to mix from December 23 to 27.
Mr Johnson acknowledged the measures would not add up to a "normal Christmas" and urged people to exercise caution, particularly when meeting with the elderly or the vulnerable.
"We can't afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn't know it's Christmas and we must all be careful," he said in a video message posted on Twitter.
"I know this doesn't equate to a normal Christmas and it won't work for everyone. And it is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this time-limited special dispensation.
"The virus has not gone away and families will need to make a personal judgement about the risk of forming a bubble with or visiting elderly relatives and the vulnerable."
A joint statement issued by the four UK governments said they had been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, recognising it must be "limited and cautious".
Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public location, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and other venues will be maintained throughout the period.
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