Families in Wales 'strongly advised' to postpone celebrating Christmas together by scientific advisers

People in Wales have been "strongly advised" to postpone celebrating Christmas together by scientific advisers.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) said people should meet remotely to protect older family members and those most at risk.

They suggest families with children should consider ''isolating" at home for 10 days before seeing elderly relatives.

''Pre-isolating for one incubation period would be an effective way of lowering your risk of infecting others. The best way to protect older family members is not to expose them to potential infection, no matter how well-intended the reason for contact.''

The Welsh Government announced a five day relaxation of restrictions over Christmas between December 23 and 27. During this period, travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK and up to three households will be able to form a Christmas bubble.

It comes as the Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton announced he will not be travelling to meet family for Christmas and will not be seeing his children this year.

He told Wednesday's press conference the best present people can give to their families is a "coronavirus-free Christmas".

  • Watch the press conference in full:

"This is just one Christmas, which I won’t be spending with my children. My main priority is to keep my whole family safe and healthy.

"The best way I can do that is to stay at home and have a small Christmas this year."

Dr Frank Atherton told a press conference in Cardiff that people should not mix with people outside of their household between now and Christmas.

"We do know that the virus spreads from person to person very easily, so to reduce it we have to all work to reduce the number of people that we're in contact with between now and Christmas, that's a really critical period," Dr Atherton said.

"My message on this is really very simple - it is don't mix with people outside of your household in the period between now and Christmas.

"Anything that leads to increased mixing of people is increasing risk, so don't mix if you can avoid it." 

An intensive care doctor from the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff echoed the calls after he received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday. Dr Matt Morgan told ITV News families need to talk about the risks before making choices about how and where to celebrate the holidays.

''Families need to talk - to talk about the risks. I’d love to spend Christmas with my parents. I work in a hospital and come into contact with patients with Covid - and is that a risk I’m prepare to take?''

''People do need to follow the guidelines issued by the government where there are behaviours you can do even if you do get together to reduce the chance of becoming ill.''

Health minister Vaughan Gething said it was "important" to recognise the virus has not gone. Credit: PA

On Tuesday, the health minister said he was committed to the rules and defended the all-nations approach to allow households mixing over the festive period.

''If we tried to have stricter rules around Christmas, we know that many people would ignore them and make up their own rules. Having a set of common rules across the UK should help people manage what they're doing.''

However, he urged people to see as few people as possible during Christmas for a ''better future''.

''The government cannot micromanage every single choice of every single family in the country. Our message is for people to see as few people as you can do. The few contacts, the less the transmission.''

Many businesses have had to close during the firebreak. Credit: PA Images

While the fire-break was intended to reduce the spread of the virus, the TAG says the benefits of early intervention have been 'lost.'

Its report warns intergenerational mixing over Christmas will ''likely" help spread Covid-19 and lead to more deaths and hospitalisations.

''This is highly likely to provide increased opportunities for transmission of the disease. Increases in infections in older adults is likely to lead to higher deaths and hospitalisations after Christmas.''

As of Tuesday, Wales has the highest infection rate in the UK. It was the only part of the UK where infection rates did not appear to be falling in the last week of November.

Neath Port Talbot currently has the highest infection case rate in Wales, and on Monday, a doctor said infections in Swansea Bay were heading to 'catastrophic levels'.