The World Health Organization (WHO) has pleaded with families to socially distance and wear face masks at Christmas get togethers.
The UN agency, which says Europe is teetering on the brink of a third coronavirus wave, believe the measures would ‘contribute significantly’ to reducing the spread of the virus thus saving lives and preventing loved ones from gettin ill.
WHO’s latest advice follows their report earlier this month which said there was ‘limited evidence’ that face masks work
The body said that mixing over Christmas could exacerbate the virus’ spread and make the January peak more deadly.
The new guidance says: ‘Indoor gatherings, even smaller ones, can be especially risky because they bring together groups of people, young and old, from different households, who may not all be adhering to the same infection prevention measures.
‘Gatherings should be held outside if possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing. If held indoors, limiting group size and ensuring good ventilation to reduce exposure risk are key.
‘It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy. Vulnerable people and older friends or relatives may find it very difficult to ask loved ones to stay away physically.’
It comes as Boris Johnson’s plan for UK-wide lockdown-free Christmas was thrown into disarray today as Scotland and Wales ordered tighter restrictions.
Mr Johnson said the move to allow three different households to mix indoors between December 23 and 27 remained in place, despite urging everyone to ‘exercise extreme caution in the way we celebrate’.
But Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has issued advice that only two households should come together to ‘form an exclusive Christmas bubble’.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon said gatherings should only happen on one day, people should not stay overnight unless ‘unavoidable’, and pleaded with Scots who have not already organised a bubble to avoid doing so.
In the advice published this morning, the WHO warned the transmission of the virus remained ‘widespread and intense’ in Europe.
‘There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021,’ they said. ‘And we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it.’
They also warned communities to postpone festive and religious celebrations, or reduce the number of people able to attend.
They added that these should be held outside where possible, regardless of location.
Officials also advised those who are travelling this Christmas to ‘avoid crowds’ and follow the guidance from authorities.
The guidance on mask-wearing comes despite the WHO’s Covid-19 Guidance Development Group (GDG) finding there was ‘limited evidence’ masks halted the disease from spreading in a report earlier this month.
A study by scientists in Denmark also found they offer ‘no protection’ to people who wear them, but the research did not rule out the possibility that they protect others.