Those long-awaited Christmas get-togethers with family and friends are just around the corner, but with the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreading fast it’s important to take some extra steps to make your celebrations Covid-safe.

Close contact with others – especially in unventilated spaces – increases your chances of spreading Covid-19. If you’re spending the festive season with loved ones there are lots of ways you can reduce the risk, including taking regular rapid lateral flow tests, letting fresh air in and getting your booster.

GP Dr Claire Ashley provides some simple tips for staying safe so you and those close to you can gather round the table and enjoy your Christmas fun.

Take those tests

Meeting up with loved ones? You should all do a rapid lateral flow test before you mingle.

They’re free, easy to do at home and the results show in half an hour – to order a pack, go to nhs.uk/get-tested.

“If you haven’t got any symptoms, rapid lateral flow tests are very good at picking up Covid-19,” says Dr Ashley, based in the South West. “On Christmas morning, before granny comes over for lunch, taking a test is the best way to check you’re not infectious.

“My family will all have a rapid lateral flow test the morning we travel down to see my parents, and if anything comes back positive, or any of us has symptoms, we won’t go.

“I’m aware our plans might be disrupted. It’s not perfect, especially after last year, but I’d rather everyone stays safe.”

As Dr Ashley points out, rapid lateral flow tests are designed to pick up Covid-19 cases with no symptoms, so if you do have symptoms such as a fever, cough or loss of sense of taste or smell, you need to isolate immediately and take a PCR test. And if your rapid lateral flow test does show a positive result, you’ll need to isolate and only leave the house to take a PCR test to confirm it.

If you have been in contact with someone with Covid-19 and are double vaccinated, you should take a daily rapid lateral flow test for seven days if you have no symptoms. If you test positive or develop symptoms in those seven days, you must self-isolate, take a PCR test and follow the guidance on gov.uk.

If you are unvaccinated, you must self-isolate for 10 days if you are in contact with someone who has Covid-19.

Don’t forget the NHS COVID-19 app is still the fastest way to know if you’ve been exposed to someone who’s tested positive, so keep it on.

Open the windows

Letting fresh air into your home is one way to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Opening windows and doors for just 10 minutes will help.

“Covid-19 is an airborne virus and the research suggests that when you’re in a well-ventilated space the risk of contracting it is reduced,” says Dr Ashley.

“That’s why being outdoors is much more safe, but that’s tricky when it’s very cold. So if you want to reduce the chances of Covid-19 being passed on, have the windows open so you get as much airflow as possible.”

Wear a face covering

You must wear a face covering in public areas such as shops, places of worship, entertainment venues, and on public transport. It’s wise to wear a mask in crowded or enclosed spaces, even if they’re not legally required.

“Face coverings are really effective at reducing how much you’re spreading Covid-19,” explains Dr Ashley.

Get your booster

Every adult in the country now needs to get a Covid-19 booster vaccine, because two doses does not give you enough protection against catching Omicron. Book yours now at nhs.uk/covidvaccination.

Get Boosted Now is the national mission to build a wall of defence against the Omicron variant. This mission is more urgent than ever before with Covid-19 because Omicron is spreading fast. Vaccines are the best way we can protect ourselves.

You can get a Covid-19 booster 12 weeks after your second dose. Boosters give you the best possible protection against the virus and should significantly reduce your risk of serious illness and hospitalisation.

If you haven’t had your first or second vaccine, go to nhs.uk/covidvaccination or call 119 to book it, or find your nearest walk-in centre.

“It’s also very important for pregnant women to get vaccinated,” adds Dr Ashley. “The benefits of being vaccinated and boosted really outweigh the risks.”

People with lower immune systems might need to be more careful about socialising this Christmas, as they could have less protection against getting severely ill with Covid-19. This includes people who are taking medication that suppresses the immune system – eg, for rheumatoid arthritis – and those having chemotherapy.

For more advice on celebrating the festive season safely, visit: gov.uk/coronavirus

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