There are fears families being allowed to mix between households over Christmas will cause infections to spike (Image: Getty Images)
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Families who get together over Christmas will "know" if close mixing over the festive period later causes their relatives to catch coronavirus or even die from it, an expert has warned.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that each day of relaxation of coronavirus rules at Christmas could need five days of tighter restrictions "doesn't sound implausible".
The statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge told BBC Radio's 4 Today programme that he thought mixing at Christmas could lead to "tens of thousands" of more Covid cases, requiring an extra clampdown.
"It is quite plausible that a few days of relaxing would lead to tens of thousands of more cases and that means extra deaths and measures needed to bring those under control," said Sir David.
"There is a big difference though because when (we're told) we need to save lives, we don't know whose lives we're saving.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter
(Image: Corbis via Getty Images)
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"If somebody though dies or is hospitalised after getting Covid at Christmas, you are going to know who they are and I think the potential regret in anticipation of that might make people really quite careful."
He also predicted that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus – 16,000 people at present – would this winter exceed the 17,000 peak reached in spring, adding: "This will be a real slog."
England is getting ready to emerge from its four-week Lockdown on Wednesday, December 2, and it is not yet clear what will happen next, although some kind of tier system is expected.
The scientist behind the original national lockdown has warned much of England will need to go back into Tier 2 or 3 measures even when the current restrictions end next month.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, says the move would be needed to stop infection levels rebounding immediately and undoing any benefits from the second national lockdown.
People are unsure about getting together this Christmas
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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Dubbed Professor Lockdown, Prof Ferguson said it was "too early" to tell how much of an impact the second national lockdown will have by December 2 but claimed the previous tier system had made a difference.
"We now have clear evidence that Tier 3 measures were working to bring down infection rates in some areas," he said.
"Tier 2 was also having an impact, but a smaller one.
"The decision is a political one, but if we don't want to see infection levels rebound from December 3 my assessment is that measures between Tier 2 and Tier 3 will be necessary in the great majority of locations."