CHRIS Whitty has warned Brits not to cuddle elderly relatives at Christmas as they may not “survive to be hugged again”.
England’s Chief Medical Officer urged the public to abide by social distancing – even during the five-day lockdown holiday next month.
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Professor Chris Whitty urged Brits not to hug their grandparents to keep them safe from infection[/caption]
Earlier this week, Downing Street announced a temporary relaxation of social distancing measures between December 23 and 27.
As part of the guidance, Brits are allowed to meet up with two other households indoors – and there is no ban on physical contact.
Speaking at tonight’s government briefing, Sir Patrick Vallance stressed that “hugging elderly relatives is not something you want to go out and do”.
Underlining Sir Patrick’s point, Professor Whitty added: “It’s not illegal but the fact that you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”
He added: “It does not make sense because you could be carrying a virus and if you’ve got an elderly relative, that would not be the thing you’d want to do in a period where we’re running up to that point where actually we might be able to protect older people.
“So I think people just have to have sense.
“The fact that you can do something – and this is true across so many other areas of life – doesn’t mean you should.”
The CMO said he would personally be spending Christmas “on the wards” – but said he understood that millions of Brits would want to spend the festive period alongside loved ones.
It’s not illegal but the fact that you can do something doesn’t mean you should
Professor Chris Whitty
The Chief Medical Officer’s warning comes after it was announced that 99 per cent of England would be plunged into Tier 2 restrictions.
Some 23.3 million people – 41.5% of the population of England – will face the most stringent restrictions, while 32 million people, which is 57.3% of the population, will be in the second tier.
London and Liverpool are set to go into Tier 2 and Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle into Tier 3.
The new toughened up lockdown tiers are due to come into effect next Wednesday, when England’s month-long national lockdown ends.
The news comes as:
- Matt Hancock set out which areas will be in which tier at 11.30am in a statement to the House of Commons
- Boris Johnson gave a press conference at 5pm
- The new system is expected to be in place until the spring – with a limited relaxing of rules at Christmas.
- Ministers tried to reassure concerned MPs last night restrictions could be eased in time for Christmas when tiers are reviewed after two weeks – on December 16
Health secretary Matt Hancock today told the Commons that more areas in England than before would be in the higher risk tiers in a bid to keep transmission low.
He said: “While all three tiers are less stringent that the national lockdown that we’re all living in now, to keep people safe and to keep the gains that are being made, more areas than before will be in the top two tiers.”
Mr Hancock added that there will be a review of the latest tiers on December 16.
In Tier 1, the rule of six applies indoors and outdoors, people are urged to work from home if they can and pubs are limited to table service.
Only three rural areas – the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly – are in the lightest Tier 1.
The majority of England will be in Tier 2, in which restrictions ban households mixing indoors and in pubs – while restaurants can only serve booze with a ‘substantial meal’.
The newly tougher Tier 3 means pubs, restaurants and cafes have to shut – along with indoor entertainment.
Strict Tier 3 measures ban households from mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks.
Tories are already rounding on ministers to demand their areas stay out of the top level of restrictions.
They are demanding a cost benefit analysis and reams of data to back up the theory that the stricter rules will help bring down infections.
Responding to the frustration of local communities in the higher tiers, Mr Hancock stressed that only the areas with the very lowest infection rates would see significantly relaxed restrictions.
He said: “The lowest case rates are in Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly which will go into Tier 1.
“In all three areas, they’ve had very low case rates throughout and I want to thank residents for being so vigilant through the whole pandemic.”
He added: “I know that many other areas will want to be in Tier 1, I understand that.”
Earlier today, The Sun reported that England’s local lockdown tiers could already be outdated as cases are falling.
Professor Carl Heneghan, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, claimed the new tiered system may be “unjustified” based on recent data.
He pointed to recent Government figures, which show new infections halved in a week – from 18,626 last Tuesday to 9,854 seven days later.
If this trend continues, he said that by the time the national lockdown ends next week, the country could be in a similar place to where it was before the second wave in September when there were minimal restrictions.
Meanwhile, Government figures showed the number of UK coronavirus cases have dropped by 23 per cent in a week after 17,555 new infections were recorded today.
The figure is down by almost a quarter on last Thursday’s rise (22,915) and follows a recent trend of infections slowing.
Another 498 more fatalities were confirmed, raising the total number of Covid deaths in Britain to 57,031.
The number of deaths announced today is almost identical to – but slightly lower than – the rise seen this time last week (501).
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said rules allowing people to meet up at Christmas are likely to be tightened when they are set out on Thursday.
She said: “The expectation should be that the guidance will probably look to tighten around the edges rather than further expand and that will be true with the travel window of opportunity as well – we want to limit that window, not expand it.”
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The Welsh Cabinet is also expected to meet to decide whether further restrictions similar to the English tier system will be needed before Christmas.
However, a decision is not likely to be announced until Friday.
In Northern Ireland, tougher lockdown restrictions will be introduced from Friday, with pubs, restaurants, non-essential retail and close contact services to close for a fortnight.