Derbyshire’s public health boss issues warning over Christmas mixing

Derbyshire’s public health chief has said people need to think ‘very carefully’ about the risks of mixing with loved ones over Christmas.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 4:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 5:04 pm

Dean Wallace spoke after two leading medical journals said the plans to relax Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas were a ‘rash decision’ which will ‘cost many lives'.

Mr Wallace, director of public health for Derbyshire, also believes the county should remain under Tier 3 rules when the restrictions are reviewed on Wednesday.

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Dean Wallace, Derbyshire's public health director.

The Government announced last month that three households could come together and form a ‘Christmas bubble’ for a five-day period between December 23 and December 27.

People will be able to travel anywhere in the UK during that period – no matter what tier they are in.

On Monday, it emerged coronavirus infections across the south of England were rising after a new strain of the disease was found.

Mr Wallace said: “Coronavirus is still very much with us and there will be no Christmas ‘truce’ so people need to think very carefully about the risks and whether the risk of passing the virus on to loved ones is worth taking, despite what the rules might allow.

“As with any virus, different strains emerge over time and the best advice is for people to stay vigilant – wash their hands regularly, keep social distancing, wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces and follow any additional local restrictions in place.

“And of course, anyone who develops any of the main symptoms should self-isolate immediately and book a test.”

On Tuesday, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) and British Medical Journal (BMJ) said people might see the lifting of restrictions ‘as permission to drop their guard’.

In a joint editorial criticising the UK’s Christmas rules, the editors of HSJ and BMJ wrote: “We believe the Government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives.

“If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS’.”

Cabinet minister Michael Gove will call officials in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to discuss the issue later on Tuesday.

Derbyshire has been under Tier 3 rules since December 2, meaning groups of six can only meet in outdoor public spaces such as parks – and hospitality venues must remain closed apart from delivery, takeaway and drive-through services.

A decision on whether Derbyshire will stay in Tier 3 is due to be announced on Wednesday.

Talking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Wallace said: “From a pure health and wellbeing perspective, as a county over the last seven days, compared to the previous seven, we have seen a 20 per cent increase in the infection rate per 100,000 of the population, so we are starting to see a growth in infection rate when we had been seeing a consistent, steady decline and that is quite a sizeable growth.

“That is affecting different parts of the county differently and we know the NHS is still under pressure and particularly in intensive care and other parts of the system.

“Heading into a period where we know that the rules are going to relax anyway (for Christmas) and seeing what is happening elsewhere, my view would be that we stay at Tier 3.”

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