Jonathan Van-Tam: No 'magical number' of days to allow Christmas gatherings

20 November 2020, 19:14 | Updated: 20 November 2020, 19:17

There is no "magical number" of days that families could be allowed to meet for Christmas to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases, the deputy chief medical officer (CMO) has said.

Jonathan Van-Tam warned infection rates will pick up again if the public ignore any guidelines put in place around Christmas.

"If people don't (follow the guidelines) then the first scientific principle is things will go back up again. There is dual responsibility here.

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"There is no magic number about how many days it is going to cost us," he told a No 10 press conference.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would be a "boost" to the UK if all four of its nations could reach arrangement to allow families to meet over Christmas.

Jonathan Van-Tam said there is no "magical number" of days to allow Christmas gatherings to go ahead
Jonathan Van-Tam said there is no "magical number" of days to allow Christmas gatherings to go ahead. Picture: PA Images

Asked during the Downing Street press conference what his festive plans were, Mr Hancock said: "My plans at the moment are to have a small family Christmas, maybe with my father-in-law who lives on his own and is in our family bubble.

"That would be allowed under the existing rules."

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He added: "I'm very respectful of the work going on which is being led by others to see if we can get a UK-wide approach, that's why I'm reluctant to comment any more on what the Christmas arrangements might be.

"I just think it would be such a boost to the whole of the UK if the four nations each responsible for health care in a devolved way can come together and agree a set of arrangements that's both safe and carefully and sensible but also allows families to see each other at Christmas."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would be a "boost" if all four UK nations could agree Christmas plans
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would be a "boost" if all four UK nations could agree Christmas plans. Picture: PA Images

The conference was dominated by questions about a potential Covid-19 vaccine, including the earliest it could be rolled out and who could get it first.

Prof. Van-Tam said he believed they were on the "glide path" towards rolling out a vaccination programme, but warned the public to be prepared for setbacks.

"Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do," he said.

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"Do I accept that sometimes when you are on the glide path you can have a side wind and the landing is not totally straightforward, totally textbook? Of course."

Prof. Van-Tam, who was appearing remotely, said he was self-isolating due to a "household contact".