Public health chief urges people to be careful when socialising over Christmas

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire's public health chief Jim McManus - Credit: Herts county council

Hertfordshire's public health chief Jim McManus is backing calls for people to think about how they socialise this festive season.

Last week the government brought back mandatory face coverings on public transport and in retail outlets, following the emergence of the new omicron variant of COVID-19.

Mr McManus suggested revellers think about a ‘combination’ of measures to reduce the risks when socialising.

Those include combinations of lateral flow testing, ventilation and face coverings, as well as hand sanitising and not over-filling a venue, however all gatherings and celebrations have to be considered scenario by scenario.

When it comes to choosing a venue Mr McManus suggests looking at those that have a COVID-safe accreditation, like the ‘Safe To Trade’ accreditation.

He says the wearing of face coverings in indoor situations is strongly advised, though not required by law in hospitality venues.

And when it comes to eating and drinking without a face covering he says a ‘bedrock’ of other measures will reduce risk – making it ‘much safer’.

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He stresses the importance of vaccination – and getting a booster when eligible.

To reduce risk further he suggests reducing the number of people you come into contact with before Christmas and maybe the number of Christmas parties too.

The safer Christmas party would, he says, be a ventilated room full of double-vaccinated adults who had all taken a lateral flow test in advance and who all worked or socialised together regularly, giving a ‘bubbling effect’.

Even that wouldn’t eliminate all risk, but would make it much lower, and wearing face coverings when moving around would lower risk further.

For those looking to have a smaller gathering at home, he suggests ventilating the room well, ensuring everyone is double vaccinated and has had a lateral flow test in advance.

However at a media briefing it was also stressed that any advice was not designed to deter people from having a good time.

“I don’t think people should stop going out enjoying themselves,” said the county council’s executive member for public health and community safety Cllr Morris Bright.

“It’s just about making sure you take the necessary precautions.”

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