Don't hug or kiss elderly relatives at Christmas, Chief Medical Officer warns

26 November 2020, 18:13 | Updated: 27 November 2020, 07:02

By Megan White

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned the public to avoid doing "stupid things" over Christmas amid a loosening of Covid lockdown restrictions.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Prof Whitty said "Christmas will increase the risk" and told Brits to "take it really seriously," adding: "Think sensibly."

He also stressed that people should not hug and kiss their relatives at Christmas "if you want them to survive to be hugged again".

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His comments came as the Prime Minister said he hopes to "end the era" of coronavirus lockdown restrictions by the spring.

Prof Whitty said: "In terms of Christmas, Christmas will increase the risk, everyone knows that. That's not a secret at all.

"But that is not the only risk over this period at all."

He added: "Take it really seriously during Christmas. Don't do stupid things. Don't do unnecessary things just because the rules say you can.

"Think sensibly."

Prof Whitty added: "Would I want someone to see their family? Of course, that's what Christmas is about, whether people celebrate Christmas as a festival themselves or from any other belief system. It is an opportunity for families.

"But would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not.

"It is not against the law - and that's the whole point. You can do it in the rules that are there but it does not make sense because you could be carrying the virus and if you've got an elderly relative, that would not be the thing you want to do in the period where we're running up to a point where we might be able to protect older people.

"I think people just have to have sense and this is very much what I think people will do."

Boris Johnson said people would have celebrated Christmas even if the rules had not allowed and argued the country's leaders had struck a "sensible balance".

The Prime Minister said: "It is an incredibly difficult decision. You've got to strike a balance between people's strong desire to celebrate a family holiday, perhaps one of the most important family holidays of the year - which they frankly are going to do anyway - and the need to keep the virus under control.

"What we're trying to set out with the Christmas measures that we've agreed across the whole of the UK, because we want everyone across the UK to be able to travel to see relatives, is I think a sensible balance but it depends, as Chris (Whitty) and Patrick (Vallance) have really tried to stress in this session, on all of us being common sensical and doing the right thing.

"In the end... until the vaccine comes on stream, we are not out of the woods yet and we have to be very vigilant.

"So everybody's individual behaviour at Christmas will matter a great deal."