Covid-19 infection rates could “easily double” over the festive period if people go to town during the planned five-day relaxation of the rules, according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
In a set of documents released on Friday, Sage said “substantial mixing” of people over a short period of time represents a “significant risk for wide-spread transmission”.
In a paper dated November 26, the group set out a number of alternatives to traditional yuletide activities, to help mitigate the potential spread of the disease.
To reduce the risk of contaminating surfaces, the Government advisers suggest substituting card or board games for quizzes.
They also advise people to “avoid singing or physical activities such as dancing in indoor spaces” – which have been associated with outbreaks of the disease.
However, anyone desperate for some musical cheer is urged to limit the “loudness of singing” and the “duration of activities”, as well as ensure that “ventilation is very good”.
These suggestions are among the group’s “ten principles for reducing household transmission during social interactions”, which are as follows:
Consider whether in-person interactions are essential and cannot be postponed or replaced by safer forms of interaction.
Consider replacing indoor events with outdoor activities or using community spaces to host events.
Recognise that most transmission occurs due to prolongued, close interaction with familiar people in a home environment.
Take special care to protect people who are particularly vulnerable to serious consequences from infection.
Ensure people who are emotionally vulnerable have social support.
People who have to self-isolate or quarantine should not have any in-person social interactions.
Limit interactions to the same small group of people as far as possible.
Limit the duration of time spent together, especially if meeting indoors.
Manage the home environment and how people interact together.
Negotiate and communicate with family, friends, and other visit.
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 as part of a “bubble” from December 23 to 27.
In a meeting on October 29 – a week before England went into a second lockdown – Sage warned that to reduce the “inevitable risk from social mixing during the festive period”, a substantial reduction in prevalence is required ahead of any changes to behaviours or interventions.
In a summary of the meeting, it added that measures to achieve this would need to be put in place “as soon as possible”.
In a meeting on November 18 – a few days before the Government announced that there would be a limited relaxation of restrictions at Christmas, the scientists warned: “The prevalence could easily double during a few days of festive season."