Chris Whitty encourages Brits to cut down social contact – despite Boris Johnson’s advice

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England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned ‘don’t mix with people you don’t have to’ over Christmas

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Chris Whitty ‘encourages’ prioritising social contact that matters to them

People should cut down on their social contacts before Christmas and “prioritise” meet-ups that matter most, England’s top medic has said.

Professor Chris Whitty said “don’t mix with people you don’t have to” and advised Brits to take precautions like testing and meeting outside.

The Chief Medical Officer told a Downing Street press conference he would “strongly encourage” people to take tests before visiting vulnerable people and to meet in areas of good ventilation or outdoors if possible as fears mount over the spread of the Omicron variant.

The UK recorded the highest daily case rate since the pandemic began on Wednesday, with 78,610 new cases of coronavirus, including cases of the new variant.

Boris Johnson warned the public that in some areas the Omicron doubling rate was under two days as infection rocket.

People should prioritise the events that matter most in the festive period, England’s top medic has said
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But the Prime Minister insisted the Government was taking the right approach by not imposing new restrictions – and said Christmas parties were not being cancelled.

However Prof Whitty issued more stark advice as he said his own plans would be scaled back.

He said: “I think that what most people are doing is, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.

“I think that’s going to become increasingly important as we, for example, go into the Christmas period.”

In the strongest advice yet to people over Christmas, he said: “Don’t mix with people you don’t have to for either work or for family things that really matter to you, would be my general advice.

“But people have to make their own choices.”

Covid cases have rocketed to record levels

Prof Whitty admitted his own Christmas plans would likely be scaled back and said he was keeping some flexibility to help NHS colleagues.

He warned there was likely to be a “very sharp peak” with lots of NHS staff falling ill simultaneously, which could lead to staff shortages.

He said: “We may end up with quite substantial gaps in rotas at short notice.”

NHS England’s Dr Nikki Kanani also said she would also have a more low-key Christmas, doing far fewer things with her children in the run-up to Christmas.

She added: “But we will enjoy it together and we will enjoy it at home and we will enjoy it safely.

“As and when I need to work over the Christmas period I will be.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson insisted that the Government was taking the “right approach” by not imposing further restrictions.

Asked about the possibility of future restrictions, he said: “We think that, given the balance of risks and the balance of continuing uncertainties about Omicron, this is the right approach to take, the right mixture of approaches, to do these two things at once.

“The progress that we’re making with the booster is absolutely vital.”

Boris Johnson admitted his own Christmas plans would be ‘pretty modest’
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The Prime Minister insisted that people could go ahead with their festive plans but said his would be “pretty modest at this stage”.

“We’re not cancelling events, we’re not closing hospitality, we’re not cancelling parties or their ability to mix,” he said.

“What we are saying is think carefully before you go, what kind of an event is it, are you likely to meet people who are vulnerable?”

He said people should wear masks on public transport and get tests before they go to events.

The country is in a “different place to where we were last year”, he said, but urged caution until the booster effects begin to kick in.

The PM offered hope that the booster programme was showing signs of progress.

“While hospital admissions are going up, nationwide we are starting to see admissions coming down among some of the more vulnerable older age groups where we have already got those boosters in arms,” he said.

Booster clinics are being set up in football stadiums, shopping centres, pharmacies and GP surgeries across the country.

Mr Johnson said the Government is “throwing everything” at the booster rollout.

He added: “Let’s keep going. Let’s carry on giving Omicron both barrels.

“Let’s slow its spread and give the vaccines more time.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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