Jason Leitch clarifies whether elderly should only meet outdoors over Christmas

The national clinical director has clarified comments he made on Friday suggesting that elderly people should only mix with other households outdoors over Christmas.

Monday, 30th November 2020, 4:45 pm

Professor Jason Leitch, responding to questions from journalists during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, said he was not suggesting anyone should have a full Christmas dinner outside to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.

He called on people to be “sensible” and to adapt to their own family situation, while adding that it was safer to meet outdoors than indoors.

Prof Leitch said: “Outdoors is safer than indoors, but I’m not suggesting whole Christmas dinners outdoors, pasting tables or not.

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Jason Leitch has clarified comments about outdoor meeting in Scotland over Christmas

"People should be sensible, they should adapt to their own family situation, so my family is not going to have an indoor celebration, others will have an indoor celebration.

"If you’re doing that, you should ventilate the rooms as much as you can, you should keep distance as much as you can, you should wipe down the surfaces as much as you can.

"Winter excess mortality is not to be caused by the fact you had your windows open on Christmas day. Winter excess mortality is because of long-term respiratory disease, deep-seated inequalities, etc, etc.

"I think the vast majority will have a very common sense celebration and that might be a brief toast of bubbles outdoors, or it may be that you have a safe indoor celebration with your family.”

The First Minister echoed the advice, saying there was no way of “eradicating” the risk of indoor mixing over Christmas and the Scottish Government would try to give as much guidance as possible to the public in the run up to Christmas.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "There is no way of eradicating the risk of people coming together indoors during a pandemic.

"Our default advice is that if you can get through Christmas without meeting other households indoors, that is what we would encourage you to do and we will try in the period between now and Christmas to give as much common sense advice as possible.”

Later challenged about the plans that could be introduced to extend the school holidays over Christmas, the First Minister said that it could happen to reduce the risk of transmission.

Plans being considered include extending the school holidays to cover December 18 to January 11.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We haven’t reached a decision on the school term.

"What we have been considering is whether for a couple of days either end, because it may be the case that children are interacting more with others over that period, whether there is a case for that.

"Every single decision we are making right now trying to control the virus is causing harm and suffering in other ways and that is what makes this such a difficult thing to get through for governments and other people.

“We are going into a period where there may be more mixing … within different generations.

"We are thinking about whether that requires us to take any greater precautions. We are not trying to make life difficult for people here, we are just trying to think through all of the possible things that we can do to stop people getting the virus and hopefully stop more people dying from the virus.”

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