Workers urged to hold Christmas parties early to protect relatives

Workers are being urged to hold Christmas parties early to avoid risk of spreading Covid to older relatives at festive family gatherings

  • Expert suggests office Christmas parties should be held first week of December
  • ‘It’s about thinking where your priorities are – do you have to go to six Christmas parties, or do you just go to two or three?’
  • Last year, 16 million people were put in Tier 4 restrictions just before Christmas 

Workers are being urged to hold their office Christmas parties early to avoid giving Covid to vulnerable relatives at family gatherings. 

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘People going home for the week of Christmas, if they will be staying in the same house as someone vulnerable or very elderly, may want to avoid crowds for a couple of weeks before that. 

‘While the risks are small, those who want to be ultra careful should consider arranging Christmas parties for the first week of December.’ 

Workers spending Christmas with elderly or vulnerable relatives may want to avoid crowds in the weeks before December 25, health experts warn

Professor Catherine Noakes, an expert on infection, said people should consider going to fewer events during the party season. 

‘It’s about thinking where your priorities are,’ she said. 

Professor Noakes is among the experts who will deliver this year’s Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution, to be shown on BBC4 between Christmas and New Year.

She suggests people should consider going to fewer events during the party season than usual.

Last year Christmas was effectively cancelled for London and much of the South East, as more than 16 million people were put into de facto lockdown and told not to leave tier four.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also slashed a Christmas amnesty from five days to just one.

This year, thanks to the vaccines for Covid-19, no such measures are currently planned, and thousands of people are looking forward to having one drink too many at their long-awaited office Christmas bash.

People are advised to plan ahead, however, and do a risk assessment.

If they are staying with family from the start of Christmas week, on December 20, with elderly or vulnerable people there too, they may want to avoid picking up the coronavirus, which conservative calculations suggest can still be infectious for two weeks.

Professor Hunter said that could mean planning Christmas parties for the first week of December, although he stressed the risk of passing on the virus is now ‘minimal’ when households are double-vaccinated, particularly after boosters for older family members.

Workers are advised to plan ahead and carry out a risk assessment of parties 

Professor Hunter said that could mean planning Christmas parties for the first week of December, although he stressed the risk of passing on the virus is now ‘minimal’ when households are double-vaccinated, particularly after boosters for older family members.

Giving her own advice, Professor Noakes said: ‘Having a smaller number of social events, and arranging bigger events like Christmas parties early in December, may be one way we can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to family and friends who we may meet over Christmas.

‘It’s about thinking where your priorities are – do you have to go to six Christmas parties, or do you just go to two or three?

‘And perhaps it’s better to do a smaller number of more valuable activities than to just go to everything, because really the more people mix together, the more chances there are for this disease to spread.’

Professor Noakes, an environmental engineer who is an adviser on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and has advised ministers during the pandemic, has also suggested Government funding should be available for people to better ventilate their homes for health reasons, as well as to insulate them to keep heat in.

This year’s Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution include Deputy Chief Medical Officer professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who will discuss scientific advances during the pandemic, along with Professor Noakes and five other leading UK scientists – Professors Katie Ewer, Julia Gog, Ravi Gupta, Teresa Lambe and Sharon Peacock (SUBS – pls keep).

The Christmas Lectures will be broadcast on BBC Four between Christmas and New Year.

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