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The Christmas dilemma

The Christmas dilemma

As you can imagine, there tends to be a fair amount of rivalry among us health journalists. So it pains me to say this, but fair play to the BMJ and HSJ for their intervention in the debate over Christmas rules. It made headlines, and it seems as though the Government might be forced to move as a result.

From an epidemiology viewpoint, I have to trust the experts who say that allowing households to mingle at Christmas will have terrible effects on the transmission rates. And I think there is an issue around the cultural sensitivity of this: if the Government can bend the rules for Christmas, why couldn’t they for Eid, Diwali, Hanukah and other non-Christian festivals?

But this all said, I suspect Pulse readers aren’t in complete agreement around this issue.

Because there are so many competing factors (which epidemiologists don’t really need to consider)  none more so than people’s mental health. Lockdown is unlikely to remove the stresses for people who normally struggle with Christmas, but it will also significantly increase stress for those who rely on support of friends and family members at this time.

And, strange as this may sound, but it comes at a time where I fear the sheer overwhelming nature of the vaccine programme is heightening the anxiety for many patients, especially vulnerable ones.

Indeed, at this point, there is a chance that everyone ignoring rules that are changed this late in the day, and go further than the current rules allow.

GPs, with their knowledge of patient behaviour and psychology, understand all this, hence why there is debate within the GP community around the pros and cons of lockdown. I am no fan of the Government, and some of their decisions during the pandemic have been shocking. But I’ve said from the start that decisions around lockdown are unenviable. And this Christmas decision is more unenviable than ever.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at