Keep Suffolk Safe – ‘What can I do differently over Christmas between 23-27 December 2020?’

Christmas Bubbles – Planning a Safer Christmas

The Government has announced an easing of coronavirus restrictions across the UK over the festive season. For five days, from 23rd December to 27th December 2020, up to three households will be able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ with no social distancing required.

While for some this may be a relief, many are worried about keeping their family, friends and loved ones safe.

It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away. The recent news about coronavirus vaccines over the past few weeks suggests there is hope that we may see a future permanent easing of restrictions, and protection from coronavirus for the most vulnerable, but we are not there yet, and we know in many areas of the Country COVID-19 infections are increasing.

We have spoken with many people who have been wondering whether to see their families and to form Christmas bubbles. They are thinking of doing things differently this year, to keep themselves and their loved ones as safe as possible, and to take personal responsibility for reducing the possibility of passing on the virus.

Everyone’s family and situation is different, but if you are thinking about these issues, it may help to consider the following.

  • When you are deciding who to meet up with, consider the risk coronavirus would pose to them if they were to catch it.
  • It is important to consider the chances that someone in your Christmas bubble may have caught coronavirus before the festive period and be infectious. We need to remember that people can have coronavirus, and be able to pass it on to others, while feeling well and not knowing they have coronavirus. The risk is higher if you live in an area with high rates of infection, as there is an increased risk you may have caught coronavirus.
  • The more we or our family members are involved in activities mixing with other people increases the risk.  You may decide to still form a Christmas bubble and may feel that it is possible for you and other members of your family to reduce your contacts with other people and any risky activities before you meet. The recommended time for this is 10 days before the festive period, to reduce the chances that you have caught coronavirus and could pass it on.
  • Much of our family time at Christmas involves spending long periods of time, inside our homes, with lots of family members of all ages. This is risky for passing on coronavirus, and so it may be worth considering doing things differently. For instance, your family may be able to meet outside for a walk rather than meeting in somebody’s home. If this is not possible, you could consider meeting online. If you do decide to meet in somebody’s home, consider keeping visits brief, not having too many people crowded together, avoiding hugging and kissing, and if you can keep warm enough, consider ventilating rooms where households are mixing for a few minutes every so often, and wear a mask if able.
  • We have all spent a lot of time apart this year, and it may feel very important to take advantage of the easing of restrictions to be together. There may be isolated friends or family who it is very important to see, but if they are particularly at risk from coronavirus, consider the ways that you can minimise the risk to them.
  • Remember that you do not need to join in with any activities that make you feel unsafe – friends and family should understand if you do not feel like joining in with what is being planned poses too great a risk to you or others.
  • Although the changes to guidance for these few days at Christmas will mean that we will be able to form a bubble with up to two other households, it is still likely that most of us will not be celebrating the Christmas period in the way we are used to. We will not be able to attend normal gatherings with larger families and friends made up of multiple households.
  • While this may be upsetting and disappointing for some of us, many people have told us that they think it is important to keep themselves and their loved ones safe right now. They have shared ideas for finding different ways to stay in touch and celebrate, for example organising phone calls with the family and friends they usually see, sending gifts or letters in the post, or arranging an online celebration or meal.

If after thinking through these issues, you are still planning to take advantage of the easing in restrictions and to spend Christmas with family or friends in your Christmas bubble, there are some ways in which you can try to make this day a little more COVID safe.

Public health expert Professor Sian Griffith talking to  ITV News asks people to think very carefully  if they are still planning time together. This article suggests the following tips to help reduce transmission of the virus.

  • Do not pass plates of food around – have individual snack plates for people
  • Have disinfectant wipes in the bathroom for people to clean the loo etc after they have used it.
  • Use paper plates.
  • Individually wrap cutlery.
  • Have the window open and spend as much time outside as possible.
  • Consider paper towels which can be put in a bin lined with a plastic bag which can be removed and put outside at regular intervals.
  • Have spray accessible to wipe down the surfaces.
  • Make sure hands are washed before a meal or food preparation.
  • Anyone preparing food should not be too close to another person in the kitchen.
  • Prepare – Between now and Christmas, can you minimise your risk? Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your distance. If you are ill, you don’t go near other people. Cancel Christmas day if you are not feeling well.
  • Talk to your guests before the day to agree on how you are going to arrange things to keep everyone safe.
  • Think about whether, just because you can, you should meet up. You could have a good Zoom conversation with all your family and postpone the turkey to March.
  • Presents are probably fine, but it is suggested do not hand them out, let people take their own.
  • Try to keep your time together as short as possible.