The success of the UK’s vaccine rollout means that we know more about the virus and can implement the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and others safe over the festive season.
Preparing for the festive season
The emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has reminded all of us that the virus is still all around us – and that means we need to take sensible steps to reduce the spread of infection.
The most important thing you can do is get your vaccine shots and your booster jab when you are asked. Some 46.5m Brits have had their two shots of the vaccine, and a further 20m have had a booster jab. Joining the ‘jabbed army’ makes you more resistant to Covid-19, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily stop you getting the virus, it means you are less likely to become seriously ill.
In light of the new Omicron variant, the government has expanded the booster programme to all adults over 18 and announced that all eligible people will be offered a top-up jab by the end of January.
Whilst we’re all excited for Christmas itself, the run-up to the celebration will be crucial to ensuring we all have a normal break – able to enjoy the company of our family and friends in real life, rather than on Zoom.
Test, test, test
One of the main reasons Covid-19 has forced us all to make so many sacrifices over the past two years is that around one in three people who have the virus are asymptomatic, meaning neither they nor others can tell that they have it – but that doesn’t mean they can’t spread it.
So it’s important for us all to keep testing – protecting ourselves, and others.
Before meeting up with friends and family this festive season, you should take a Rapid Lateral Flow Test to make sure you don’t have the virus. Of course, that’s particularly relevant when meeting those more vulnerable.
You are also at higher risk of catching or passing on Covid-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and there there is limited fresh air – places like pubs, shops, or public transport.
So to protect yourself and others, taking a Rapid Lateral Flow Test on days when you are expecting to be in those environments will make a massive difference to stopping the spread. The more people who test, the safer we all are as we head towards the Christmas period.
In England, from Wednesday 15 December the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS COVID-19 app will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. People will be able to demonstrate proof of two vaccine doses via the app. Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.
Christmas might not be the time you’d usually expect to host friends and family with the windows open, but the science suggests it’s a really useful way for us to reduce the spread of the disease.
Covid-19 gathers like smoke in the air – so the more times we clear out rooms or buildings by opening up the window, the less of the virus can gather.
Even opening doors and windows for ten minutes when you are meeting indoors can help you and your loved ones stay safe.
Mask up and stay safe
It’s important that we protect each other where we can, and that means using face coverings where they are enforced and thinking about when, in other situations, it might be sensible to wear one.
The arrival of the new variant has meant that people are being asked to wear masks in shops and on public transport, but all of us have a responsibility to think about where else it might be helpful to wear one – especially when we are around people that we might not know. Face coverings are a good way to reduce transmission so it’s a good idea to wear one in busy public settings and when meeting members from other households to help limit transmission.
From Friday 10 December, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship in England.
Listen to the experts
“While vaccines are offering us good protection, COVID-19 is still with us. Stay safe over the festive period by taking simple but effective steps like wearing a face covering in crowded indoor spaces, testing regularly, ventilating rooms where possible and getting a booster or vaccine when offered. By doing this, we can reduce the spread of the virus and keep ourselves and others safer.”
Sir Patrick Vallance
Government Chief Scientific Advisor
Staying safe at work
Many of us have headed back to the workplace after months of working from home, whilst others were always working out of their homes – especially key workers in the health service, the emergency services and a whole host of vital workers on everything from road and rail maintenance to train operators.
Employers and employees must also up their protection game again due to the arrival of the new variant, but the good news is that we now know the tools we need to use to fight the virus.
Employers will want to update their Covid-19 risk assessments for winter, and identify where there might be gaps.
From Monday 13 December, those who can will be advised to work from home. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace. And of course employees too have a responsibility to follow the rules at their workplace, whether it’s masking up or following one-way routes to reduce transmission.
- Businesses, as well as consumers must play their part in keeping employees and customers safe this Christmas.
- If you’re an employer, check your Covid-19 risk assessment is fit for winter, and remember to keep busy premises well ventilated.
- Businesses, including shops and transport operators, should also ask their employees and customers (where legally required) to wear face coverings and encourage customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, so if there is an outbreak, the app alerts will allow them to take swift action to limit the spread of the virus.
Rapid Lateral Flow Tests can be picked up for free from pharmacies, any Covid test or vaccination centre or ordered online from nhs.uk/get-tested