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Should we accept we might not meet with family and friends this Christmas?

Doctors and business owners say the country should accept muted celebrations this Christmas in order to prevent more misery come January.

Scientists have warned looser measures being considered by the government for the festive period will likely result in a strict 25-day lockdown in the new year.

Watch: People have their say on Christmas and we hear from Professor Martin Michaelis

Scientists have warned each day of greater freedom during the festive period could require an extra five days of coronavirus restrictions.

Households could be allowed to mix indoors for five days from Christmas Eve - with the move allowing relatives to spend quality time together and not have to choose between grandparents.

But fearful health bosses have warned each day of easing would result in five days of tighter restrictions. So are festive get-togethers really worth the sacrifice?

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Strood GP Dr Julian Spinks thinks some restriction will still be in place at Christmas
Strood GP Dr Julian Spinks thinks some restriction will still be in place at Christmas

Dr Julian Spinks, a GP in Strood, said: “Christmas is a problem because it’s said that to be able to relax for a day we might have to do five extra days of lockdown and it really shows what an enormous effect one day of relaxing the rules can have.

"However, I’m very much aware that whether you’re religious or not it’s a major festival in the UK.

"It’s a time when families come together and also for the economy, the enormous amount of stuff that’s bought around that time is important. So, the government’s trying to split the difference.

“I do feel it’s unlikely we can have what I would call a completely normal Christmas. It’s likely we’ll have to accept some sort of restriction.

"From my point of view with my family I’ve decided it’s better to have a celebration later in the year, possibly for Easter, rather than try and bring everyone around the country back together. But that’s for individual families."

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The second lockdown is due to be lifted on December 2, when the tier system will be re-introduced.

Scientists want the tier system to be strengthened in the lead up to Christmas but the Prime Minister is reportedly hopeful of allowing families to meet.

Gurvinder Sandher from Cohesion Plus in Gravesend said: "Christmas is a time for families to come together and me, like millions of others, were looking forward to getting together with family especially after the difficult year we've had.

"But, on the other side, listening to the scientists and saying that if they do ease lockdown there's a worry of then having an extended lockdown in January so it's a difficult one.

"I think the primary aim, surely, has got to be around public health. If it means this year that Christmas isn't going to be the same as previous years it might be something that we might have to accept reluctantly, because bottom line is health, family health, personal health which surely trumps everything else.

Gurvinder Sandher from Cohesion Plus says the government has a difficult decision to make

"The problem this year particularly is that everyone has spent so much time apart and at the end of the year there was that hope that if we all obeyed the rules, respected lockdown and everything else, that we'd get the Christmas and that opportunity to get together.

"It is a real sense of frustration but, at the same time, we've been so good for so long we don't want to be in the situation where we're in lockdown down and then have another spike in January.

"January's normally a miserable month as it is so you don't want to make the situation even worse. But, fingers crossed, it'll be nice if we can celebrate Christmas together, but who knows."

Philip Holden, who runs Mr Books in Tonbridge, an independent book store, said a longer period of lockdown restrictions could threaten the future of his business.

"My view is that we have to take whatever precautions public health experts say we should to avoid the loss of life and longer term health issues that come from Covid," he said.

Mr Books owner Philip Holden
Mr Books owner Philip Holden

"If what is being said is true, then the cost of five days over Christmas is going to be almost a month more of closures in the future, and I'm not sure we can survive that, financially.

"I think people need to think hard about if they desperately want a 'normal' Christmas, or if they want to help save the lives of their families and friends. And maybe resolve to see their relatives a bit more in the new year!"

Before the latest lockdown, Mr Holden had hoped the weeks leading up to Christmas would in some way compensate for loss of trade earlier in the year.

Now, faced with the potential for further restrictions being imposed after December 2, when the current restrictions are due to end, he admitted to being frustrated that other retailers, selling similar products, could continue to trade.

"Of course we'll follow the rules," he said. "But it's annoying that WHSmith opens its stores, along with every supermarket selling books, and we can't."

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