Christmas get-togethers could prove fatal, Shropshire GP warns

A doctor has warned about the dangers of family get-togethers over the Christmas period, saying that failing to observe social-distancing could prove fatal.

Dr Jess Harvey of Ironbridge Medical Practice said people should seriously consider whether the short-term benefits of being able to see friends and family over Christmas were worth the health risks.

The Government is expected to announce a relaxation of the rules from December 22-29, with up to three households allowed to mix under one roof.

Dr Harvey said she could understand that many families would want to spend time together over Christmas, but said people should also think about the risks to their loved ones.

"If you have got all your family together from all across the country, and you have got elderly relatives, the potential consequences could be fatal," she said.

Dr Harvey admitted that people faced a difficult balancing act, but said that just because people were allowed to entertain visitors, did not mean that they should necessarily do so.

"I understand that this has been difficult, and has had an impact on mental health, and people are missing their friends and families, but a lot has been achieved so far through social distancing and two lockdowns," she said.

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Dr Harvey said if people did decide to mix with other households over the festive period, they should take precautions to minimise the risk.

She said people should maintain social distancing at all times, and should preferably meet outdoors where possible.

"If people do meet indoors, try to maintain a well-ventilated room, if possible leaving windows open," said Dr Harvey.

She said people had learned to adapt a lot in recent months, in many cases maintaining social contact through online platforms.

"This Christmas is going to be a bit different, but it doesn't mean it can't be worthwhile, it could be better in manyways if it is a bit simpler. People have to look around and think about what's most important in life."

Rachel Robinson, Shropshire’s director of public health, warned that while many would welcome the easing of restrictions, people still needed to be aware of the dangers of socialising over the festive period.

She said: “This year has been incredibly difficult for everyone in Shropshire and we appreciate all the sacrifices that our residents and businesses have made to help protect each other.

“When lockdown measures are eased, there may be a temptation for people to let their guard down. The virus isn’t going away, it’s spreading locally, and we are seeing cases in every area of Shropshire. With the festive period just weeks away, we are asking everyone to be vigilant and do everything they can to halt the spread of the virus.

“Every social interaction is the opportunity for the virus to infect and spread. We know it’s extremely difficult, but we ask residents to be extra cautious by limiting the number of people they meet outside of their household and support bubbles.

“We are all missing our freedoms, but following the measures saves lives. We need to tackle our growing infection levels now and we need a community effort to help halt the spread.

“Under the current national retractions, individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place. Children under school age, as well as those dependent on round-the-clock care who are with their parents, will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside.

“People still need to keep two metres apart from people that are not in our household bubble.

“We all need to protect ourselves and each other. I truly believe that if people take this advice on board, it will help us reduce our rates of infection.”

Dr Martin Khechera, senior lecturer in biomedical science at the University of Wolverhampton

Associate professor Dr Martin Khechara, senior lecturer in microbiology from Wolverhampton University, said people must not drop their guard over the festive season.

Prof Khechara said: “Remember the virus that causes Covid-19 can’t spread by itself - it is people that spread the virus.

"Even with the festive season close at hand, we still need to take care to wash our hands regularly, wear face coverings in public and enclosed spaces and avoid mixing with people outside your support bubble and in numbers greater than the current government guidelines say.

"Remember that just like in the summer, our wellbeing is still in each other’s hands, so let’s look after each other.”

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