Intelligent Mind

Stuff that matters

While millions face a solitary Christmas in Tier 4, many folk will be able to meet up for Christmas Day.

But you may well have concerns about Covid infection.

Here, Professor Azeem Majeed, Primary Care and Public Health head at Imperial College London, answers the key questions…

How often should we wash or wash our hands?
Aim to get into a routine for handwashing.

I would recommend doing it around every two hours during the daytime.

You should also wash your hands before and after any activity that might increase the risk of infection, such as handling food or after being in contact with other people.

Using soap and water is fine – there is no need to use expensive hand sanitiser unless soap and water are not readily available.

Should we open the windows? What if it gets too cold?
Good ventilation helps ensure any virus in the air is dispersed more quickly – reducing the risk of infection if you are inside with people not from your household.

If you can’t keep the room at a reasonable temperature while also maintaining good ventilation, consider whether it is safe for you to meet indoors with people from other households.

How long should relatives stay for?

It depends on the local rules for your area.

Most person-to-person transmission takes places within households.

So where visits are allowed, keep them to a minimum period – and avoid overnight stays.

The longer you spend inside with others, and the more people you mix with, the greater the risk of infection.

Where should we sit for dinner?

Ideally, maintain social distancing.

Plate up food in the kitchen and don’t use shared platters.

If food is served from a table, it is more likely to become contaminated.

Should gifts be wiped down?
Yes, wipe them and leave them for a few hours before opening.

Wash your hands after touching objects that have been handled by others.

What traditions shouldn’t we do? Should we avoid mistletoe, charades, board games, carol singing…?

Basically, it’s best not to handle objects touched by others.

Activities such as singing indoors increases the risk of infection, as they are what are known as “aerosol generating”.

What food and drink should we avoid?
Shared dining increases the risks.

So shared food such as bowls of nuts or buffet-style fare is best avoided.

This is because food handled by others increases the risk of infection, and other illnesses.

What extra hygiene measures can we take to be extra safe?

Meet outdoors, where the risks are much lower.

If meeting indoors, ensure surfaces are cleaned,

ventilation is good, and anyone who is unwell or has had recent contact with someone with the infection stays at home.

Take particular care with hygiene in higher risk areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

If you are in a high-risk group for a more severe Covid-19 illness or death, you will need to take additional precautions – and consider whether it is safe for you to meet people from other households indoors.

Should the young travel to older relatives or vice versa

It doesn’t really matter which way around the visit is – any mixing will increase the risks.

Choose the location wisely, for example a house with larger rooms and good ventilation, or, even better, outdoors.

Remember to follow the local rules on household mixing and maintain social distancing and hand-washing.

How close can we get?
Direct physical contact with others through, for example, hugging or shaking hands, increases the likelihood of the virus spreading.

So wherever possible, social distancing should be maintained (two metres ideally, one metre as an absolute minimum).

In practice, this will be difficult for many people when they are indoors – which is why indoor mixing with people from other households increases the risk of infection.

Do not meet people from other households if you have any symptoms of a possible Covid-19 infection or if you are within 10 days of contact with somebody who has had an infection.