This week’s coronavirus column

Published Thursday 24 December 2020 at 11:27

Our Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Professor Dominic Harrison, has written another column for the Lancashire Telegraph.

Read it here:

Coronavirus has given us a tough year in Lancashire and the end of the year is bringing very little relief. The Covid19 rates across

Lancashire, having tumbled in many areas throughout the last lockdown, are now drifting upwards again across the county and we are seeing increases in hospitalisation rates. We also now have evidence that the new variant of COVID19, which is about 70% more infectious, has made an appearance in the County. We can expect this new variant to gradually increase the confirmed case rates across Lancashire in the new year, accelerated by temporary seasonal returnees from Tier 4 areas in London and the south east who are likely to ‘seed’ this new variant generating more rapidly rising cases.

So across Lancashire, our risks of continued transmission of Covid19 are still high and rising.

On Christmas Day we have an easing of the social mixing guidance with one day of relaxation to the Tier3 rules. We all need to manage these risks carefully. So if you are planning to meet other households on Christmas day, here are my top ten tips on how to make your Christmas day bubble as safe as possible.

1. Consider reducing the numbers in your Christmas day bubble as much as you can. Your risks of being infected rise with each member in the bubble. Scotland for instance has set a limit of 8 adults.

2. Consider postponing a festive invitation to older more vulnerable family members to a date in March (or later).

3. Consider encouraging school aged children to share some of Christmas festivities for at least some of the time, in a different room to older or more vulnerable Christmas bubble guests. One in three of us who have Covid19 are likely to be asymptomatic. This group will have no symptoms at all, and are more likely to be under 40 years of age. The latest ONS prevalence survey suggests the English average infection rates in secondary school aged children may be one in fifty. For parts of Lancashire, where we have higher rates, that may be as much as one in thirty three.

4. Consider spending some or all of the time together outside and not in enclosed indoor space.

5. If you are together for a number of hours over Christmas day, keep two rooms ready so the bubble can swap rooms every couple of hours and open windows or doors to ventilate the space alternatively.

6. Keep as socially distanced as possible throughout the day – particularly try to keep a social distance between children and older or more vulnerable family members.

7. If you do have anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable in your bubble, consider asking everyone to wear face masks indoors as much as practicably possible.

8. Wash hands or sanitise as much as possible during the day together.

9. Don’t be tempted to stay overnight.

10. If you are visiting another household on Christmas day negotiate who the driver will be – don’t be tempted to drink and drive.

I know it’s not great having to think of this kind of stuff for Christmas day, but 2021 will gradually see the situation improve. By the end of February, we should have easily have got through immunising the first 10% of the population – those over 80 and the most clinically vulnerable. This should result in a dramatic fall in hospitalisations and deaths.

That point will be ‘the beginning of the end’ of this pandemic. Have a very happy and safe Christmas.

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