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expert reaction to people in Scotland being asked to limit socialising to three households at a time in the run-up to Christmas

The Scottish government have announced new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.


Prof Sally Bloomfield, Honorary Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (, said:

“We have to understand the basics which is that the virus is spread from person to person, which means the more different people we meet with, the greater the chance we will mix with someone who is infected and infectious – and become infected ourself; and equally important, then pass it on to yet another person.

“We have a tendency to assume that if the government tells us that it is OK for us to mix with 3 households, that means it is SAFE for us to mix with 3 households.  We fail to realise that it is not safe at all – we are taking a calculated risk whenever we meet with another person.

“But the government also realise that we have a human need to take this risk and meet with people.  So, 3 households would seem appropriate guidance – in that it allows us to the option to spend time with those who are really important to us, or who need our care and companionship at this time which is hard for a lot of people.  If it works out at less than 3 households, this will help to reduce the spread and avoid need for lockdowns in January which is equally important to us and the NHS.”


Comment sent out 15/12/2021:

Prof Rowland Kao, the Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh, said:

“Thus far, there is no evidence to suggest a change in risk factors associated with transmission, of which the most important is prolonged close proximity indoors, especially where ventilation is poor.  The recommendations in regards to restricting households meetings reflects this.  The Omicron variant in Scotland continues to spread at a rapid rate, both in terms of spatial extent (with reported cases all across Scotland, including in the Highlands and Islands where infection rates have previously been low) and in terms of numbers – the doubling time remains approximately 2.5 days with no signs yet of abating.  Unfortunately this rapid spread necessitates action before further data are available on, for example, hospitalisation rates.  These additional measures will also have benefits in accelerating the decline of the delta variant, which on its own was of some concern and continues to causes substantial numbers of cases in Scotland, and likely with higher hospitalisation rates than omicron.  Whether they are enough or not, remains to be determined and is at least partially dependent on a very tight race between booster vaccination uptake and omicron spread.”



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