After the government suggested COVID rules could be relaxed at Christmas, scientists have warned a January lockdown will be needed to make up for it.
Temporary household mixing could be allowed over Christmas, but each day’s freedom might require five days of tougher measures to make up for it.
The government is considering ways to allow people to spend time with family over the festive period, although a senior health official said any socialising would likely have to be followed by “very responsible” behaviour and a reduction in contacts again.
Reports suggest households might be allowed to mix indoors for a five-day period from Christmas Eve, and that ministers are considering plans to allow three or four households to form bubbles.
However, one government adviser has said that there is “too much emphasis on a normal Christmas”.
Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch COVID.”
A five-day easing could mean a potential 25-day period of tighter measures into January if the government follows advice from Sage.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser to the government’s COVID-19 response, suggested tougher restrictions could be needed either side of Christmas if curbs are to be temporarily eased.