Britain’s total figure of COVID-19 cases surged by 21,502 yesterday which is a 38 percent increase compared to last Saturday’s data. After the England left the second lockdown to enter into another tiered system, people across the country hit the high streets ahead of the festive holiday.
However, top scientists have urged families not to gather if it risks “infecting the vulnerable and elderly people we love”.
It comes as fears grow over the coronavirus spreading further over the Christmas period.
Under the Government’s official guidelines, Britons can form a Christmas “bubble” over a five-day period.
Three households can form the temporary bubble from 23-27 December, including mixing in private homes and staying overnight.
There are also no travel restrictions in the five-day period.
However, the “Christmas bubble” cannot go to a pub or restaurant together.
Experts have warned that Downing Street is sending the “wrong message” and could risk causing more lockdowns in January and February.
Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian: “If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns.
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“From a public health perspective, I have to be perfectly honest, I think this is a mistake.
“And I think people, even though we’re permitted to do this, I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside or do it in a very, very modest way.”
On Saturday the UK recorded another 519 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Professor Stephen Reicher, SAGE Government advisor, warned that a plea by health secretary Matt Hancock to follow the rules “missed the point entirely”.
He told the Guardian: “The danger is when you say people can, you imply that it is safe and therefore they should.”
On Thursday, during a Downing Street press briefing Mr Hancock confirmed that the relaxed rules would not be extended for New Year’s celebrations.
He said: “I know this has been such a tough year for so many of us so we’ve brought in the rules around Christmas to make sure people have that opportunity to be able to see members of their family who they haven’t been able to all year.
“But we’ve got to be careful.
“So let’s not blow it, especially with the vaccine on the horizon.”
He added: “Let’s make sure that we all take the actions we need to look after other people and to look after especially who are vulnerable to the disease over Christmas.”