Experts say it's not illegal to hug relatives for Christmas, but that doesn't mean you should

"Don't hug Grandma if you want her to survive to be hugged again."

  • Prof. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance said they want people to see their families
  • But they added that they wouldn't encourage people to hug their elderly relatives
  • It came when Boris Johnson asked people to get on board with new Covid-19 levels
  • The Prime Minister insisted that there is an escape route for areas at higher levels

Just because it's legal to hug relatives at Christmas doesn't mean you should, Downing Street experts warned.

Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance said they want people to see their families, "because that's what Christmas is about".

But the government's chief medical officer and scientific advisor added they would not encourage the British to hug old family members.

Her stern words came when Boris Johnson asked people to come on board with new levels of coronavirus.

He insisted that there is an escape route for areas in the higher levels – only Prof. Whitty is a futile hope to warn Tier 1 immediately.

Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance said they want people to see their families, "because that's what Christmas is about".

Answering a question from a journalist at the Downing Street press conference, Prof. Whitty said, “Would I want someone to see their family? That is of course what Christmas is all about.

“But would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their relatives? No I wouldn't. It's not against the law, and that's the whole point – you can do it within the rules, but it doesn't make sense because you could be carrying the virus.

“And when you have an elderly relative, this is not what you want to be doing at a time where we are running to a point where we can potentially actually reach elderly people.

“I think people just have to make sense and I think that's exactly what I think people are going to do.

"The fact that you can do something that applies to so many other areas of life doesn't mean you should."

"In response to your direct question what I'm going to do, I'll actually be on the wards."

Sir Patrick added, “To keep the numbers low, don't do unnecessary things at Christmas. Avoid behaviors that would spread the disease.

“Make sure that in a house with other households you are well ventilated and that you are taking the precautions.

“Keep your distance where you can. It's the same basic rules that we have to apply, and I think it's difficult.

How does the government decide which levels areas are divided into?

Boris Johnson promised to base animal allocation on "common sense" and the government's "winter plan" included a number of metrics that should be used. You are:

  • Case detection rates in all age groups;
  • Case detection rates in the over 60s;
  • The rate at which falls rise or fall;
  • Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests performed); and
  • Pressures on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

However, there are no specific numerical trigger points, and the document added that there will "be some flexibility to trade these indicators against each other depending on the context".

"For example, the hospital capacity in a given area needs to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighboring areas and the feasibility of moving patients," the document says.

"The detection rates of cases need to be weighed as to whether the spread of the virus appears to be restricted to particular communities."

“It's not going to be a normal Christmas, but if you want to make these family connections it has to be done in a way that you try not to increase the risk. I think Chris indicated the risk of hugging elderly relatives is not something that can be done.

"It will increase the spread to the population at risk." Prof. Whitty added, "It wants to survive to hunt again."

Elsewhere in the meeting, the prime minister insisted that the tier system was less “intrusive” than the blanket lockdown, which is due to be replaced from December 2nd.

He stressed that there is a mechanism for areas that manage to lower their infection rates to loosen the curbs.

"Your stage is not your destiny, every area has the means of escape," said the Prime Minister.

But Prof. Whitty took on a very different tone, suggesting that there is little chance someone will descend to Tier 1 as the restrictions are so lax that cases inevitably arise.

The chief doctor said it was only possible for places that currently have extremely low case rates. He said adjustments to the levels would only be "mainly" downwards.

Tory MP Mark Harper took advantage of the contradiction and tweeted, "That rather suggests that if you're in Tier 2, at least until spring, it's your fate."

According to grants announced today, only 700,000 people – one percent of the population – are subject to the slightest restrictions. As of November 5, 29 million were in the lowest tier.

Meanwhile, around 55 million residents will find themselves on the toughest two levels after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2nd.

It has sparked a huge backlash, with anger over the lack of set thresholds for entering and exiting Tiers and many local MPs in areas with low infection angry at being mixed up with nearby hotspots.

The government has released a narrative explanation of why each area falls within each tier, but has rejected calls to use numeric trigger points.

A crowd of high-ranking Tories have threatened to rebel in a narrow vote on the plans next week.


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