In Brief

Coronavirus: what Thanksgiving reveals about Christmas risks

Fears of surge in Covid-19 cases as millions of Americans travel to family gatherings

As the UK looks forward to a loosening of Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas, fears are growing in the US that last week’s Thanksgiving break might have been a “superspreader event”.

Infections were already rising sharply in many parts of the country before the four-day holiday, for which many Americans return home to spend time with their families.

“More people passed through airport security on Sunday than on any other single day since the coronavirus pandemic cratered air travel,” CNN reports. Nearly ten million people travelled by plane, and many more made the journey by car.

The result is likely to be “a superspreader event on top of a Covid-19 surge” that began earlier this month, says CBS News. According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, the US has recorded more than 100,000 new cases every day since 4 November.

While it is too early to measure the effect of family get-togethers on infections and deaths, Canada may provide a glimpse of the future. Having celebrated its own version of the festival six weeks ago, says The Telegraph, the neighbouring nation is “reckoning with a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases that should act as a cautionary tale”.

The number of infections is still small by US standards, but the spread of the virus seems to be greatest in areas where the most people came together to celebrate.

“Cases have risen sevenfold in British Columbia since Thanksgiving, while French-speaking Quebec, where the annual festivities are less popular, has seen a far smaller spike,” the newspaper reports.

By contrast to both Canada and the US, Covid-19 appears to be in gradual retreat in the UK, raising hopes that restrictions can be lifted over Christmas.

But the University of Exeter’s Dr Bharat Pankhania warned today that family Christmas dinners are bound to result in additional infections.

“If we are gathering over the Christmas period, as the green light has been given for this to happen, people will start to gather before and after as well,” he told Good Morning Britain. “Then, once you have a surge in the number of cases late January to early February, we will not by that time have fully deployed the vaccines, therefore case numbers are expected to rise.”

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