'If shops are busy, go another time' plea from health boss after concerns about covid and Christmas shoppers
People should also think strongly about not having elderly relatives around the Christmas table, and rely on technology to keep in touch on December 25, to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19, Amanda Healy said.
The chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East was speaking after a regional survey found that more than half of respondents wanted to follow the rules but they “found it hard” to stick to social distancing guidelines.
The research also showed that 71% of North East residents were “very worried” about the UK-wide Covid situation; one in three found it hard to stick to household mixing rules and 15% admitted to deliberately bending the rules.
Ms Healy, also County Durham’s director of public health, said infection rates were falling across the region.
Speaking about the survey, she said: “One of the key findings was people were finding that social distancing was the thing that was a real challenge.
“People were finding it difficult going into shops, so it’s getting people to think about, if it’s difficult and if you go into a shop that’s really busy and you don’t feel safe, go back later, go at another time.”
Concerns have been raised regarding the numbers of punters crowding Newcastle’s main shopping thoroughfares this month.
However, Ms Healy praised the majority of local retailers who she said were maintaining measures to keep shoppers safe.
Speaking about inviting older relatives around to join in the celebrations, Ms Healy agreed it was a “really challenging time” for families and said the Government had put the responsibility for that choice onto individuals.
She said: “Our advice to families, particularly if you have older relatives who are more vulnerable or those who are at risk of Covid-19, would be to really think about, do you need to mix on Christmas Day?
“Keep those contacts as low as possible.
“Try to do it in a different way if you can, because would we really want to spoil things now, when we do have a vaccine?
“I know it’s difficult, people do want to hug their relatives, but let’s just keep as safe as possible for that bit longer.”