Wales' chief medical officer urges public to 'rethink plans' about seeing family at Christmas

9 December 2020, 14:18 | Updated: 9 December 2020, 15:08

Shoppers walk past Christmas market stalls in the centre of Cardiff
Shoppers walk past Christmas market stalls in the centre of Cardiff. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton has urged the public to rethink their plans to see relatives over Christmas as Covid cases in the country continue to rise.

Dr Atherton said he has cancelled plans to see family members over Christmas and will instead spend the festive period with his own household.

He said further measures could be introduced before the Christmas period to try to reduce the spread of the virus.

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Increases in cases are being seen in 21 out of 22 local authority areas and the overall incidence rate for the country is now almost 350 cases per 100,000 people.

There are 10 local authority areas in Wales that have rates of coronavirus higher than 400 cases per 100,000 people, which Dr Atherton described as "a worrying situation".

He told the press conference that the best present people can give to their families is a "coronavirus-free Christmas".

Dr Atherton said: "In the light of where we are in Wales, we all need to think about what we should and could do over Christmas, we all need to think about our plans and to perhaps rethink our plans.

"I'm certainly doing that. I was intending over Christmas to travel to Northern Ireland to visit relatives.

"I'm not now going to do that because I think the best thing to keep people safe, to keep my family safe, is to not to do that.

"I was planning to visit some of my children who are living across in England, but I've decided not to do that. It's just one Christmas and I'm prepared to make that sacrifice to keep my family safe.

"What I've decided is that the best way to manage myself and my family this Christmas is to stay home, to have a small quiet Christmas just with my own household."

He also raised the question of whether new restrictions imposed last week in Wales are enough "is a really important one".

The chief medical officer said he would not be going to pubs, restaurants, shops or Christmas fairs before the festive period to avoid the risk of catching Covid-19.

Dr Atherton said that people should not mix with people outside of their household between now and Christmas.

"We do know that the virus spreads from person to person very easily, so to reduce it we have to all work to reduce the number of people that we're in contact with between now and Christmas, that's a really critical period," Dr Atherton said.

"My message on this is really very simple - it is don't mix with people outside of your household in the period between now and Christmas.

"Anything that leads to increased mixing of people is increasing risk, so don't mix if you can avoid it."

He added: "We are at risk of getting into the Christmas period with rates much higher than we had anticipated or had hoped," he said.

"Ministers are considering what further things might be possible in the run-up to Christmas, that needs to be considered.

"We also need to think about the Christmas period of managing our risk to make it as low as possible during those five days of Christmas, and then beyond Christmas I just don't know where we will be.

"We will have to see where the virus transmission is, what the rates are, what the hospital situation looks like, but it may well be that we need to think about further restrictions beyond Christmas."