A doctor has expressed his fear that the relaxation in Covid-19 rules over the Christmas period will make things “difficult” for the NHS.
Gwynedd GP, Dr Eilir Hughes expressed his fears following the news that a broad set of UK-wide measures to help people come together with their loved ones during the festive period in a way that is as safe as possible, has been agreed.
The measures agreed between the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland executive and the UK Government for a five day period December 23 and 27 include a relaxation of travel restrictions and permission for up to three households to form an exclusive “bubble”.
Dr Hughes said: “Naturally there are worries that January and February are going to be even more difficult for the health service. This is when we hope to distribute vaccines to people as well.
“I don’t want to be a total party pooper, and I fully understand why people want to see their loves ones – we do too.
“I believe we will have to trust people to be responsible, but we need to educate them about how to do this by offering examples of different ways people can celebrate this year.
“For example, using thermal clothes, making sure places are properly ventilated, and being outside. If there is bad weather, to cancel the event and have it at another time.
“But a five-day window might put a lot of pressure on people to press ahead with plans whatever the weather is.
“The truth is that whatever restrictions we have in place there will be a few people who’ll do whatever the like, and this has been the case throughout the pandemic. The Christmas period is a sacrament to people, be it for religious reasons or others.
“Therefore, I would emphasise self-isolating for a period before Christmas because that would help a lot.
“But there isn’t an obvious answer. It is very difficult to get the balance right.
“I hope we’ll begin to reach the end of the pandemic around Easter time with the possible vaccine being available. I hope we won’t drown just as we’re about to reach the shore.”
The Welsh, Scottish, English and Northern Ireland governments agreed that:
- Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together between the 23rd and 27th of December.
- Up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
- Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.
Speaking after a meeting of the four governments, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said: “This has been a very long and difficult year for everyone. All our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone has done so much to help control the spread of the virus and to save lives. But that has meant many sacrifices, including not seeing family and close friends. We are all looking forward to Christmas and a chance to spend some time with all those we hold dear.
“Today, I met the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and Michael Gove, from the UK Government, and I’m pleased we were able to agree a common four-nation plan for the festive period.”