Christmas is fast approaching and in a miserable case of déjà vu, the news is once again dominated by rising Covid cases.
Last year, our festive joy was stunted as Boris Johnson announced restrictions just days before Christmas day. This year, we’re able to spend Christmas with our friends and families, but cases of the Omicron variant are still rising and as a result, Plan B has been introduced.
Most work Christmas parties have been cancelled, while work from home guidance has been reintroduced and we’re back to wearing masks indoors. Many are worried about further restrictions being introduced.
As it stands, there are no plans by the government to stop households mixing over the festive period, but if you test positive for Covid, you will need to isolate.
To give yourself the best chance of enjoying a ‘normal’ Christmas, here are some tips that’ll help you stay Covid-safe during the Christmas season.
1. Get a booster jab
From Wednesday December 15, anyone over the age of 18 will be able to use the NHS booking system to book their jab. Although some people did experience technical difficulties after the prime minister’s announcement.
Alternatively, you can get your booster jab at a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination centre if you’ve had your second jab at-least three months prior.
2. Work from home (if you can)
For the past couple of months, many across England have enjoyed hybrid working going into the office part-time after the official work from home mandate was scrapped. But now, the advice is to work from home if you can once more.
The government guidance says that “office workers who can work from home should do so”. Additionally it states that people should continue travelling to work if they need “to access equipment necessary for their role, or where their role must be completed in person”.
3. Self-Isolate when necessary
The governments guidance on self-isolation says you should isolate as soon as notice you have Covid-19 symptoms. You should get a PCR test straight away and isolate if the results are positive.
On November 28 the Government said anyone in close contact with the Omicron variant must isolate for 10 days. However, this information has been replaced by new rules which were announced on December 12.
The new requirements state that if you’ve been double vaccinated and have been in contact with an Omicron case, you will now be required to take daily tests. Only people who have tested positive will be required to isolate. Unvaccinated adults must still isolate for 10 days.
4. Take lateral flow tests before seeing vulnerable family members
The government advice around tests is now that people should take a lateral flow test before they enter “crowded indoor spaces.” However you can also play your part by testing before seeing vulnerable family members. You can get tests from pharmacies or online, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Do your Christmas shopping online
Even though Christmas is a week away, many of us still have a few presents to buy. With so many shopping options online, you don’t physically have to go into shops anymore. According to a survey by personal finance startup Credit Karma, more of us prefer to do our Christmas shopping online now.
Avoid the shops and shop from the comfort from your home. You can even find some gift ideas from us here.
6. Wear a mask
The rules on mask-wearing have changed as a result of the Omicron variant. In his Downing Street press conference on Saturday November 27, Boris Johnson stated that face coverings would become mandatory in shops and on public transport to stop the spread of the new variant. The rules have since been extended and masks are now required in almost all indoor settings.
Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, previously stressed to HuffPost UK that the pandemic is ongoing and we should be protecting ourselves accordingly – including by wearing a mask.
While masks and coverings primarily protect other people from the transmission of Covid particles, research also shows they boost protection for the wearer.
7. Know the difference between a cold and Covid-19
It’s winter which means cold season is upon us. But it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between a cold and Covid-19.
Cold symptoms come on gradually and, according to the NHS, can include:
- a blocked or runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell.
Traditional symptoms of Covid have been:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
- Body aches
- Sore through
- Mild cough
- Nasal congestion.
If you’re unsure, stay home if you feel unwell and take a PCR test to find out if your symptoms could be Covid.
8. Decline invites to social occasions
With cases of the Omicron variant rising it’s important that we use discretion when attending social events. If you want to reduce your risk of catching the virus, you can always decline some social invitations.
Etiquette consultant Julia Esteve Boyd previously told HuffPost UK that we should be direct when choosing to decline an invite due to Covid-19. “Offer an apology and say you’d love to attend another event when the situation changes. It’s only fair to let them know as soon as you can,” she said.
9. Avoid large gatherings
Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia told Huffpost UK. “At Christmas respiratory viruses tend to spread less readily at the Christmas day event as we actually mix less with people then than during a normal work or school day. But Christmas parties in the run up to Christmas are a different thing and would certainly increase risk of transmission.” Try limiting the amount of large gatherings you attend in the run up to Christmas.
10. Continue washing your hands and social distancing
We can’t neglect the small things that make a huge difference in the fight against Covid-19. We should continue to prioritise washing a hands and social distancing when necessary.
Though we now know that surface contact isn’t the main cause of Covid spreading, the NHS still says we should wash our hands with warm water and soap for as long as it takes to sing the song Happy Birthday twice. That’s about 20 seconds. When in public try keeping a distance of one to two meters between you and other people.
11. Ventilate your home
Yes, it’s cold, but opening your windows for a few minutes or so can limit the spread of the virus. Doctors and scientists have backed a nationwide campaign funded by the government to get everyone to open their windows for 10 minutes every hour over the winter.
Covid can build up in enclosed spaces if an infected person is talking to another person, increasing the chance of transmission, so increasing the airflow in your home will push the virus out in the open.
12. Bring back the Zoom parties
Ah, Zoom our old friend. As the months have gone by we may have forgotten about our favourite lockdown past-time, but it may be time to bring it back. Not everyone will feel comfortable mixing with others this Christmas, so it’s a good idea to utilise Zoom parties.
You can have a Christmas karaoke zoom party or maybe a Netflix session. It’s too cold to be outside anyway!