Independent SAGE is calling on the government to support ‘alternative’ Christmas celebrations such as communal outdoor or online activities so that “noone is left alone this winter”. The panel of expert scientists also warns that any easing of restrictions on households mixing must be matched by a sustained information campaign on how to stay safe over the festive period.
Ahead of the government’s expected announcement later this week that it will relax the rules on households mixing for a short period over Christmas, Independent SAGE today publishes a set of guidelines to help people spend time with their loved ones safely.
As most transmissions occur in enclosed spaces, the safest way of socialising is online or outdoors. Independent SAGE urges the government to work with local communities, religious organisations and the private sector to resource and fund activities which could involve those who are socially isolated and would otherwise have no opportunity to celebrate at home.
Where families are mixing indoors, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate the risks, such as social distancing, ventilation and hygiene. Such domestic regulation needs to be accompanied by government support, such as a fund to support adequate ventilation and a pandemic fuel allowance, to allow people to open their windows and still keep warm.
These policies should be promoted through a major ‘safer homes’ public information campaign, produced in conjunction with local community groups. The campaign should explain what people need to do to keep safe and where to get practical support in order to make their homes safer. These campaigns need to include the needs of hard to reach groups and be implemented in a culturally appropriate manner.
“This is a period of family and goodwill and the last thing any of us would want to do is to put others at risk,” said Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews. “So how can we keep each-other safe in the midst of the pandemic? This paper suggests a range of ways of doing so – from outdoor community celebrations to guidelines on keeping our homes more secure, should it be possible to mix indoors. Most importantly, this has to be a partnership in which the government supports us in simple but crucial ways, for instance a pandemic fuel allowance so everyone can afford to ventilate their homes and stay warm, and where we act together to keep everyone safe.”
About Independent SAGE:
Independent SAGE is a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and support Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, chairs the group and oversees its reports.