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Covid-19: Rethink your Christmas plans and mix with as few people as possible, say leaders in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire

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Rethink your plans and mix with as few people as possible this Christmas - that’s the message from council leaders as coronavirus cases spike in the region.

Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council have issued a joint plea calling on residents to cut down the size and number of family celebrations this year amid fears that it could lead to a third wave of Covid-19 in the new year.

You should consider abandoning the traditional big family Christmas gathering this year, say public health leaders
You should consider abandoning the traditional big family Christmas gathering this year, say public health leaders

They warned that the virus transmissions are growing at a faster rate in the East of England than anywhere else in the country.

The R rate in the region - which measures the average number of people an infected person passes on the virus to - is at 1.2 to 1.4.

And they warned Cambridge could follow Peterborough from Tier 2 into Tier 3 restrictions if the spread continues at pace.

National restrictions are due to be eased from December 23-27, meaning up to three households can legally meet indoors for that period.

But the councils said they does not mean people should - particularly where older and more vulnerable people are concerned.

Cambridge City Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge City Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council said: “I know many people have been looking forward to meeting loved ones at Christmas, but our message, based on rapidly rising cases and the real pressure at Addenbrooke’s and other hospitals, is please, for your family’s safety rethink through your plans.”

And in a symbol of scaled-down festive, he suggested that means it could be a ‘chicken’ Christmas rather than a ‘turkey’ one - not forgetting the vegetarian options...

“Given the rapid rise in cases across the East of England, including Cambridgeshire, we all need to rethink plans and go for safety first for our family at Christmas,” said Cllr Herbert.

“A large chicken should be enough for a family get-together, so save buying the full-sized Norfolk bronze for Christmas 2021.”

“Meanwhile, we continue to work hard with partners to help keep people safe and the spread of the virus down. We have our amazing Cambridge voluntary groups and volunteers to support people who need us, especially those who are most vulnerable or homeless.”

Cllr Herbert added: “If you want to help others at Christmas, please make a personal or business donation to a local homeless charity, a foodbank or Cambridge Sustainable Food.

“With 2,000 more people out of a job compared with last Christmas, the need to help families living below the breadline will still be a challenge through 2021 and beyond.”

In the seven days to December 13, Cambridge recorded 140 cases, up 46 on the previous week, with the infection rate at 112.2 cases per 100,000. That has already been exceeded In the five days from December 14-18, with a further 153 cases confirmed.

Neighbouring South Cambridgeshire recorded 203 cases in the week December 13 - double the previous week. The infection rate rose to 127.6 per 100,000.

Infection rates are rising in every other part of the county too - and Tier 3 restrictions come into force on Saturday (December 19) in Peterborough, where the infection rate was an alarming 311.5 per 100,000 for the week to December 13.

Survey findings from Statista - visit https://www.statista.com/chart/23778/uk-covid-christmas-plans/
Survey findings from Statista - visit https://www.statista.com/chart/23778/uk-covid-christmas-plans/

Findings from Statista suggested 37.5 per cent of people have already decided to celebrate Christmas with fewer people this year.

Dr Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “I know that people living and working in Cambridge have worked really hard to keep the virus under control and that has led to infection rates that are lower than many other areas of the England.

“In spite of that huge effort, the rate of infection continues to increase and we have seen in recent days that the numbers are growing quickly across all age groups.

“We now need people to do even more to cut the rate of infection so I ask everyone to think carefully about their Christmas bubble arrangements between the 23 and 27 December in particular.

“While the rules allow people to form an exclusive three household bubble at that time I ask people to think about whether they should.

“While the most vulnerable people are now being vaccinated it will take time to reach everyone. In the meantime, we need to keep on following Hands-Face-Space to protect loved ones and minimise the growing pressure on the health service.”

Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Covid-19 vaccinations will yet to have taken full effect even for the few who have had them, as two jabs are required, 21 days apart, with the best protection conferred from 12 days after the second injection.

Some families have planned an outdoor Christmas - while others are postponing meeting up until spring.

Dr Robin advised anyone forming a bubble over Christmas to:

  • Stop unnecessary social contact outside your immediate household as soon as possible and for at least five days before you meet other households in your bubble;
  • Keep your bubble as small as possible, meet indoors for as short a time as possible, and avoid overnight stays unless absolutely necessary; and
  • Remember that the safest way to celebrate Christmas this year is contacting those you don’t live with remotely - online or by phone - and the next safest is meeting up outdoors.

Help for people in need, including financial support, is available – for details visit https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/updates/2020/03/18/coronavirus-changes-to-our-services.

Here is a guide to what you can and cannot do in each tier.

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