Experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have issued advice on how to mix households safely this Christmas.
Independent SAGE said: “The Planning Template is designed to help people make decisions about whether to defer meeting with friends and family over the coming high-risk winter holiday season. If you decide to meet up, it suggests how best to do this in order to minimise risk to everybody involved.”
What is SAGE’s advice to meet up safely at Christmas?
East Durham family appear in BBC One appeal to champion charity that changed their lives
The 12 areas in and around Sunderland where Covid-19 cases are rising most - including areas with 700% INCREASE
The 12 areas in and around Sunderland with the lowest Covid infections as cases fall by more than half since the start of May
'One in eight' have snubbed virus vaccine
These are the 15 most deprived postcode areas in and around Sunderland according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation
Experts say that the first step in planning a safe Christmas event is to arrange a discussion with those who are planning to attend.
The host should then speak to each guest and discuss how vulnerable they are to the virus and what their emotional support needs are.
After this, the host should prioritise who is most important to meet with, taking into consideration their vulnerability and needs.
It should be then mutually agreed by confirmed attendees when to meet, in what setting and for how long. SAGE also recommends creating a timetable at this point to help plan out the day and curb any anxieties about unexpected events.
Activities such as games or those involving physical touch, such as dancing, should be discussed and adjustments to how to progress, whether this means replacing an activity or changing the setting or other factor.
A record should be kept of plans and it should be checked that everyone involved is happy with the decisions made.
In the days leading up to the meeting, those attending should do everything they can to limit risk of being infected with Covid-19.
This includes self-isolating or reducing social mixing and wearing face coverings.
If hosting the event in your own home, you should plan how to properly ventilate the room and how to maximise space between guests.
Spaces in use should be sanitised and cleaned thoroughly before guests arrive and hand sanitiser should be made available throughout the day.
Lateral flow tests should be taken by the host and guests regularly in the run up to the event, with tests available on the day for anyone who has forgotten.
Before arriving, everyone planning to attend should make sure that they have no symptoms of Covid-19 - a fever, tiredness, dry cough, runny nose, headache or sore throat, and have not been identified as a close contact of someone infected with Covid-19.
What else did SAGE say?
In their Household Mixing Plan, SAGE warned over the high risk of catching Omicron is mixing at Christmas without taking precautions.
They said: “Omicron is extremely transmissible.
“If anyone in a moderately-sized social gathering indoors (e.g., ten people meeting up in a house for Christmas dinner) has Omicron, most people are likely to become infected, regardless of vaccine status.
“Omicron also has a wider range of symptoms. It is therefore vital to stay at home if you have symptoms typical of a cold; stay away from anyone who has cold symptoms; take a Lateral Flow Test immediately before mixing, and to ensure all indoor spaces where people are mixing are as well ventilated as possible.”