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The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe has said that people should skip family dinners for picnics in the park on December 25th, in order to stop the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

Dr Hans Kluge said on Thursday that because Muslims held “virtual celebrations” for Ramadan — with some notable exceptions — and Hindus celebrated a “virtual” Diwali, Christians should similarly radically alter their traditional Christmas plans.

“If it’s a large gathering of vulnerable people, you may then postpone that gathering until you can safely gather.

“Despite the cold, if local restrictions permit, gather outside with loved ones for picnics in the park,” the Belgian said, according to LBC.

The remarks from Dr Kluge came as Britain’s Professor Andrew Hayward, part of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said that people were putting “far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas” and that Britons should actually be worried about spending time with their parents and grandparents over the holiday period.

Professor Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: “Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch Covid.

“My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas.

“We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.”

England went into lockdown on November 5th for four weeks, with the country expected to return to tiered regional restrictions from December 2nd. Ministers had indicated in recent months that measures which ban family gatherings may still be in place during the holy days, but Wednesday saw indications that the government may be considering a five-day suspension of restrictions for Christmas.

However, that relief would come at the cost of being locked down for nearly the whole of January, according to SAGE and Public Health England.

While polling since the first lockdown in March shows Britons largely in favour of having their freedoms curtailed, Christmas may prove the last straw, with a vox pop conducted by Sky News this week revealing that people will visit their families regardless of what the government orders them to do.

Lockdown restrictions were flouted en masse for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and cultural events such as Pakistan Independence Day with few legal consequences throughout the year.

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