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Christmas mixing could lead to Covid case ‘tsunami,’ health boss warns amid fears of third national lockdown

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 18/12/2020 Sean Morrison


a group of people walking down the street © Provided by Evening Standard

Relaxing coronavirus restrictions over Christmas could lead to an "unrelenting tsunami" of cases, a nursing chief has said.

The warning came as swathes of southern and eastern England prepare to enter the top tier of Covid-19 restrictions.

More than two-thirds of the population will be under Tier 3 measures from Saturday, with the Government declining to rule out a third national lockdown as cases soar in London and other parts of the country.

Rising numbers in cases have also led to fresh concerns about households mixing over the festive period.

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Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said ministers should give "fresh and more detailed" advice to the public with a week to go until Christmas.

"After a difficult year, it is everybody's instinct to want to be together and see loved ones - especially those who live far apart or feel isolated. But what is at stake is coming into sharp focus," she said.

"Travelling and family visits associated with this time of year will undoubtedly lead to more cases, more pressure on NHS and care services, and more deaths. By turning the second and third waves into an unrelenting tsunami, we would begin 2021 in the worst possible way."


Video: London to Enter Tier 3 Covid Rules Wednesday as Cases Spike (Bloomberg)

She said nurses would not enjoy Christmas "knowing what awaits them in January" and called on the Government to be "clearer about the risks - not just the rules", warning: "This virus isn't taking Christmas off and nor should we."

Up to three households are able to mix between December 23 and 27, while travel to and from Northern Ireland is also permitted on December 22 and 28.

In a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Thursday that Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey (with the exception of Waverley), Hastings and Rother (on the Kent border of East Sussex), and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire will all move into Tier 3.

Under the top level of restrictions, pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery services and indoor entertainment venues are shut.

Gallery: Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak around the world (Photo Services)

The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday - 68 per cent of the population of England.

Bristol and North Somerset will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2, while Herefordshire will go down into Tier 1, although the county's public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there.

The announcements added to unease on the Tory benches about the Government's response to the pandemic.

Steve Baker, deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservatives, called for clarity on how areas move between tiers.

Elsewhere in the UK, ministers in Northern Ireland agreed to introduce a six-week lockdown from Boxing Day to curb rising cases.

Non-essential retail and contact services will close there and the hospitality sector will be restricted to takeaway only.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford warned that "small acts of selfishness" on an individual level were adding up to the problems seen in Wales, as he predicted in an interview with the BBC that other parts of the UK may need to introduce stricter restrictions after Christmas.

And in Scotland, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said tougher coronavirus restrictions after the festive period - including a potential lockdown - is a "possibility" due to a "rising tide of Covid".

The latest areas to join Tier 3 come after London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex were placed under the top level of restrictions earlier this week.

Covid-19 case rates are rising in all but one region of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.

The highest rate is in London, which stood at 319.3 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 13, up from 199.9 in the previous week.

In eastern England the rate has risen from 152.9 to 249.1, while in south-east England the rate has increased from 167.6 to 238.7.

The only region that recorded a week-on-week fall was Yorkshire and the Humber, where the rate dropped slightly from 153.6 to 148.5.

Mr Hancock said: "I regret having to take the action that we have to take.

“I deem it necessary and there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary."

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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