WHO warns gathering at Christmas ‘is not worth the risk’

The World Health Organisation has appealed to people to stay at home during the festive season.

WHO warns gathering at Christmas ‘is not worth the risk’ Getty Images

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed to people to stay at home during the festive season as it is “not worth the risk” of catching Covid-19.

The advice comes after deputy first minister John Swinney warned that tougher restrictions – including a potential lockdown – could be put in place after Christmas due to a “rising tide of coronavirus”.

Up to three households in Scotland will be allowed to gather indoors between December 23 and 27 in a relaxation of the rules.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said: “There remains a difference between what you are being permitted to do by your authorities and what you should do.

“We have a few more months of sacrifice ahead and can behave now in a way that collectively we are proud of. 

“When we look back at these unprecedented times, I hope we all felt we acted with a spirit of shared humanity to protect those in need.”

Dr Kluge said the pandemic’s “devastation” had hit communities across Europe.

He said: “Covid-19 has forced families and communities apart, bankrupted businesses, and deprived people of opportunities that a year ago were taken for granted.

“From anxieties around virus transmission, the psychological impact of lockdowns and self-isolation, to the effects of unemployment, financial worries and social exclusion – the mental health impact of the pandemic will be long-term and far reaching.

“What has resulted is a growing mental health crisis in Europe.”

Swinney said on Thursday that the cabinet will meet as it usually does on Tuesday to discuss restrictions across the country, but could not rule out the imposition of strict new measures in Scotland.

He warned cases are beginning to rise again in Scotland, with 99 cases per 100,000 people ten days ago increasing to 116.

Asked specifically if there could be greater restrictions or a possible lockdown, he said: “That could be a possibility, I can’t rule it out.

“We are on a rising tide of coronavirus cases.

“We will be looking, as we always do, at what the outlook is based on the data in front of us, and we have to take decisions, difficult decisions to make sure we protect the public from a highly dangerous virus.”

Speaking later at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon reiterated Scotland’s toughened guidance for the festive period, including urging people to stay at home and if choosing to form Christmas bubbles to keep these as small as possible and limit duration.

She said: “We now have a real prospect of vaccination within weeks for many and within months for most. All of us should therefore do all we can to keep each other safe until then.”