COVID expert says Christmas bubbles ‘will bring severe disease and death to elderly’
Prof Ashley Woodcock calls for government to replace family Christmas with ‘designated day’ of celebration next year
It comes as government under pressure to tighten – or even abandon – five-day easing of rules over festive period
A coronavirus expert has called for the government to scrap a family Christmas this year and suggested it should be replaced with a new bank holiday in 2021.
Prof Ashley Woodcock said the current plan to allow three households to mix indoors between 23-27 December is an “avoidable catastrophe”.
He said the government should “designate a day” next year for festive celebrations instead.
It comes as pressure grows on Boris Johnson to tighten – or even abandon – the planned loosening of rules over Christmas that was announced three weeks ago.
On Tuesday, a further 18,450 COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the UK.
Prof Ashley Woodcock, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Manchester, said: “Christmas is uniquely designed to mix young and old.
Watch: Will Christmas be cancelled this year?
“This will bring severe disease and death to the elderly, much greater than meeting within peer groups. This would be an avoidable catastrophe, just in time for New Year.
“Instead the government should designate a day in 2021, after the vulnerable population in the UK have been vaccinated, to celebrate – irrespective of religious group.”
It came after two leading medical journals warned a lessening of restrictions would “cost many lives” and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded an urgent review.
The British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal published a rare joint editorial calling for the “rash” decision to relax social distancing measures over the festive period to be scrapped.
In a letter to Johnson, meanwhile, Starmer said: “If you conclude with government scientists that we need to take tougher action to keep people safe over Christmas, then you will have my support.”
Downing Street had earlier conceded the planned five-day easing of the rules over Christmas was being kept “under constant review”.
Meanwhile, a YouGov survey of 3,856 adults on Tuesday indicated 57% of Britons believe the plans should be dropped and that the current rules should remain in place during the festive period.
Some 31% said the easing should go ahead as planned, while 12% said they were unsure.
Watch: Christmas Covid relaxations need to be reconsidered, says Sir Keir Starmer