Two of the nation’s top medical journals were among those calling on the government to scrap plans to allow more home mixing during the Christmas period. In a rare joint editorial on Tuesday, the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal urged rethinking the “hasty” decision to ease restrictions, saying the government “is about to make another big mistake that will cost many lives” over a period of third wave of the pandemic.
With the number of new cases increasing at an exponential rate in many parts of the country, there is growing concern that the planned limited relaxation of restrictions next week will see a further escalation of infections and additional pressure on the National Health Service in the new Year. .
The British government, which designs the public health strategy for England, along with decentralized administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, agreed last month to allow a maximum of three households to mingle between December 23 and 27, regardless of local restrictions. they are in place in the areas where they live.
Until now, the British government has been reluctant to change course, but the message about the Christmas gatherings appears to have been refined.
Stephen Barclay, a Treasury minister, said it’s about “finding the right balance” between trying to avoid criminalizing people and, at the same time, remembering all the risks.
“It is important that people do as little as possible,” he told Sky News.
When the holiday relaxation was first announced last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was careful to emphasize that households must be “very careful, especially with elderly relatives.”
However, that easing announcement was based on the assumption that new cases would follow a downward trajectory, particularly in England, which was then in the middle of a four-week lockdown that ended in early December. The other UK nations also tightened restrictions in the fall in hopes of curbing the virus.
But the signs are that the virus has not been suppressed as much as expected. New cases have risen again over the past two weeks, with about 20,000 more announced on Monday. With infections on the rise, even if many are among younger adults and within schools, the number of people hospitalized is projected to continue to rise, as are those who die with COVID-related symptoms.
London will join other major cities in England, including Birmingham and Manchester, at the highest level of restrictions, the so-called Level 3, on Wednesday. This will mean, among other new restrictions, the closure of pubs and restaurants in addition to takeout and deliveries. People living in Level 3 areas, which as of Wednesday will be the majority of England’s population, are unable to gather socially in a private garden or most public outdoor places with people they do not live with .
With the tightening of restrictions in many parts of the country, questions are being raised about the advisability of allowing a relaxation at Christmas. That is particularly true in Wales, where infections have risen especially rapidly in recent weeks.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan was among those who called on the government to re-examine the reduction of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas.
“The concern is this: the rules have been relaxed for five days, allowing for household mixing for up to three different households and inevitably when people are in their own homes, they tend to be less vigilant,” he told BBC Radio. . “And my concern is that many people may have the virus and not realize it. They could pass the virus on to older relatives.”