Thousands of people have flooded London’s shopping strips days before a decision is made to tighten coronavirus restrictions.
Large crowds were seen on busy Regent Street in London on December 12 and while some were wearing masks, social distancing seemed near impossible in the packed streets filled with people desperately trying to cram in Christmas shopping and socialising before public health warnings are reviewed on Wednesday.
Images of the crowds have sparked fears over the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK.
London reported over 17,000 cases in the week from November 29 to December 5, up by 3000 cases on the previous week.
“The risks associated with Christmas are huge, even without this rise,” Dr Mike Gill, the former regional director of public health for the southeast region, told the BBC.
London is currently on ‘high alert’ or tier two which restricts the public from gathering with more than six people outside of their household or support bubble.
Pubs and nightclubs remain closed, however restaurants and retail remain operating.
Some areas have already progressed to ‘very high alert’ or tier three, similar to level three restrictions in Australia which allow only take away options at restaurants and limited weddings and funerals.
The BBC reports South Yorkshire will likely remain in tier three over Christmas as the NHS struggles to deal with more than 600 people in hospital with the virus “with more being admitted every single day”.
On Saturday, Wales reported its highest case rates since the pandemic began, surpassing 100,000 positive results.
The UK Christmas bubble ‘a mistake’
The government recently announced a five day period where Covid-19 restrictions would be relaxed over the festive season, allowing for three households to mix in private homes between December 23 to December 27 for all four UK nations.
The announcement drew criticism from public health experts who have dubbed the ‘Christmas Bubble’ a mistake.
Edinburgh University’s Professor Linda Bauld said there was concern over those travelling from areas with high cases of coronavirus to areas with less cases and stated that just because the government was allowing relaxed restrictions, not everyone should comply.
“From a public health perspective, I have to be perfectly honest, I think this is a mistake and I think people, even though we’re permitted to do this, I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside or do it in a very, very modest way,” Prof Bauld told BBC radio.
Dr Gill said increasing restrictions to tier three would “vastly reduce” the chance of a Covid-19 increase over Christmas.
“People should take steps to vastly reduce their contact. A Tier 3 lockdown will contribute to this very significantly.”
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