politics

Families must isolate for 10 days for Christmas with elderly, scientists warn


Families should isolate for at least ten days before Christmas if they want to celebrate with elderly relatives in the five-day break on Covid-19 restrictions.

The warning was issued by former Government chief scientific adviser Sir David King because of alarming ­infection rates among children.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing his biggest rebellion yet with 100 Tory MPs threatening to vote against his strict new tiers system.

The new rules will place many areas under far tougher restrictions than they faced before the current four-week lockdown. Sir David said because Christmas is a ­“multi-generational time” it poses a “big risk” to those most vulnerable.

He added: “Many children will ­unwittingly have the disease.



Christmas 2020 will be anything but normal for many

“People will need to be exceptionally careful unless they isolate for between 10-12 days beforehand. There will be a price to pay for Christmas.”

Independent Sage scientists echoed his call. University College London’s Prof Susan Michie said: “There is a big risk if younger people have not isolated before contact with older relatives.

“If parents know there are going to be vulnerable people around they should want children to self-isolate first.”

Prof Stephen Reicher said Mr Johnson should have kept restrictions tight at Christmas and introduced two new public holidays in spring and ­summer next year instead.

He added: “The spirit of Christmas should mean the love and strength to keep our distance.”

And epidemiologist Prof Gabriel Scally warned: “There’s no doubt Christmas will ­increase cases and result in deaths.”



Sadly many people will swerve seeing their elderly relatives this year

Mr Johnson will lift restrictions for five days from December 23 so that up to three households can gather.

But Prof Michie said the huge ­numbers of people travelling “would be a disaster for transmission”.

Although cases are generally dropping along with the death rate, infections are rising among schoolkids.

One in five children – 900,000 – are not in class either because they have the disease or are isolating with symptoms – a 50-fold increase on September.

One in a hundred state schools are closed entirely. Dr Terry Wrigley, of
the Emergency Advisory Group for Learning and Education, said poor ­planning and badly ventilated ­classrooms were to blame.

“The Department for Education gave incoherent safety advice with a helpline which was less than useless,” he added. “There has been scant ­regard for teachers and parents.”

Yesterday, former First Secretary Damian Green said “the Government are in more trouble than they realise” as more Tories joined 70 rebels in the Covid-19 Recovery Group. They are furious over the plans to introduce far more restrictive tiers.

“These decisions have enraged a lot of Tory heartlands, as well as our newly-won constituencies in the North and Midlands,” Mr Green said.

Cabinet Office boss Michael Gove has claimed hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid patients if MPs do not back the new system in a Commons vote on Tuesday.

Although the PM has an overall majority of 80, more than 40 Tory rebels could wipe that out.



Boris Johnson’s tier system has come under fire

So Mr Johnson may have to rely on Labour votes to get his plan through. But Surrey MP Dr Ben Spencer said MPs first need to see the data on “the predicted impact of these restrictions on NHS capacity for their areas”.

And Tory backbench ‘shop steward’ Sir Graham Brady added: “These restrictions will cause immense ­further damage to the economy.”

Yesterday, the PM promoted one of his critics to Covid-19 jabs minister in a bid to get him on side.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi will now be in charge of the vaccines rollout under Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Earlier, the Stratford-upon-Avon Tory said he was “hugely disappointed” his area was moving into Tier 3 despite an infection rate of 96.9 per 100,000, half the UK average.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government must move rapidly to ensure vaccine uptake is high so life can return to normal.

“We need a mass health campaign urging uptake of the vaccine and resources to rapidly roll it out,” he said.





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