As we come to the end of the most disruptive and challenging year in living memory, the Christmas and New Year break certainly feels long overdue. But amid all the festive cheer, it’s crucial that we maintain a risk-averse approach to Yuletide.
In the UK, it‘s been confirmed that some areas are able to form a Christmas bubble for the 25th only. However, it’s also important to remember we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and must take the necessary precautions to follow national guidelines and keep ourselves, and others, safe.
We’ve spoken to SRG scientists and read up on advice from the EMG to provide some tips that will help you enjoy the festive season while minimising risks.
1) Plan, plan, plan
When meeting up with family or friends, it’s crucial that you are familiarised with the main details. By doing so, you’ll know what to expect and can properly assess possible risks beforehand.
When planning to meet your social bubble, you should strive to:
- Meet in the largest space feasibly possible
- Know how many people are going to be there in advance
- Know the age range of people coming, such as if there are elderly individuals or children
- Ensure you are stocked up on safety supplies like hand sanitiser
- Know transport arrangements and travel times
- Be reasonable with timeframes (for instance, try not to spend the whole Christmas period together)
Recap: When planning, consider who will be attending, where you’ll be attending, and for how long you’ll be together.
2) Consider cyber gatherings and events
We’ve all become well-acquainted with online video calls and virtual hangouts throughout the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns (well, we’ve tried to, at least).
From the start, public health experts have suggested using this medium to see and speak with people — be that for work, pub quizzes, or catching up with friends and family. Aside from the small group of people you’ve already planned to meet in person, the Christmas break should be no different.
Expect Boxing Day charades, New Year’s fireworks, and Christmas quizzes to have something of a twist this year.
3) Travel safely
Wherever possible, travel in your own car. If you need to use public transport, wear a face covering, open any windows, keep journeys short, and avoid unnecessary trips where you can. Make sure to wash your hands when arriving at your destination and use hand sanitiser when moving on and off public transport.
4) Keep your surroundings hygienic
We all love getting dressed up over the holiday season and putting some of our usual responsibilities on the back-burner. This year, however, it’s vital to regularly clean our surroundings and keep them as hygienic as possible. When preparing your Christmas gathering:
- Have ample tissues, wipes, and sanitiser ready and remember to provide bins for waste disposal
- Wash your hands thoroughly when arriving at any household, as well as before and after meals
- Be strict with utensils or glasses and do not reuse without washing them first. During your Christmas dinner, avoid using sharing dishes and gravy boats for your Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, or any of the other usual trimmings.
Scientists have also advised using signs and stickers to encourage children to be hygienic. If you have young children, try to familiarise them with cleanliness routines.
5) Maximise the time spent outside
While the weather might be quite bracing at this time of year, try to maximise the time spent with others outside of your four walls.
Though it may sound unappealing, wrapping up warm, sitting by a log burner and drinking a cup of steaming mulled wine as about as festive as it gets. (For extra comfort, maybe even wear that pair of Christmas socks you’ll inevitably get as a present).
If you’re remaining inside (and let’s face it, most of us will be), ensure you keep windows open to maximise airflow and dilute potentially harmful particles. Indeed, research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce your risk of COVID infection from particles by over 70%.
Other suggestions for meeting others — while minimising risk, of course — include going on socially distanced walks or having a warm drink in an outdoor space (whether in someone’s garden or in a public meeting spot such as a park).
6) Stay up-to-date with official guidance — and seek support if needed
There’s no way to completely reduce risk, so if you have symptoms or come into contact with anyone who tests positive, ensure you follow the government guidelines on self-isolation.
If you need some support, info, or advice on looking after your mental health over this most unusual of Christmas periods, please take a look at Mind’s dedicated page.
Finally, Merry Christmas from all of us here at SRG!
Although the circumstances are far from ideal, we want to wish you all a special holiday season, a very Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! Enjoy yourselves, take the time to recharge, and, most importantly, stay safe.
See you in 2021!
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