SAGE scientist says people should spend less than 15 minutes in shops

Now BROWSING is banned! SAGE scientist says Christmas shoppers must spend no more than 15 MINUTES in store because ‘the less time you are in there, the safer you are’ from Covid

  • SAGE member Professor Lucy Yardley today delivered a shopping warning
  • She suggested that people should try to spend less than 15 minutes in a shop
  • She said ‘the less time that you spend in there the safer you are’ from infection

One of the Government’s scientific advisers today told Christmas shoppers they should try to spend less than 15 minutes in every shop they visit to minimise their chances of catching coronavirus. 

Professor Lucy Yardley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said ‘Covid-secure’ sites are ‘not 100 per cent risk free’ and people should keep their time indoors to a minimum. 

She argued that if people wear masks and socially distance then ‘nipping out for a bit of Christmas shopping is not one of the most dangerous things that you can do’. 

But she pointed to the 15 minute threshold used in the contact tracing process and said ‘most of us’ would not need longer than that in a shop and ‘the less time that you spend in there the safer you are’. 

Her comments come just days before non-essential shops across England will be allowed to reopen in every tier as the four-week national lockdown ends on December 2. 

Professor Lucy Yardley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said that ‘Covid-secure’ sites are ‘not 100 per cent risk free’ and people should keep their time indoors to a minimum.

All non-essential retailers will be allowed to reopen in England from December 2 and will be hoping for a number run up to Christmas

Retailers will be hoping for a bumper run up to Christmas after they have been hammered by the Government’s coronavirus restrictions. 

The suggestion from Prof Yardley that people should spend as little time as possible in shops is likely to be badly received by the industry.

Prof Yardley told Times Radio: ‘Well, one thing that we have learned from analysis, the situations in which people are catching infections, is that environments that are called Covid-secure are not 100 per cent risk free, of course, they can’t be, but they are safer than they would be otherwise. 

‘If everybody does actually wear masks, have plenty of ventilation, keep two metres apart, not spend too long in a shop because the longer you are in there the higher the risks, then actually sort of nipping out for a bit of Christmas shopping is not one of the most dangerous things that you can do.’ 

Prof Yardley was asked how long would be too long for people to spend in a shop and she replied: ‘The rule that is used for contact tracing is that if you spend 15 minutes with somebody closer than two metres then you have definitely had a potentially infectious contact with them. 

‘That is quite a generous amount of time. I am not sure that most of us would need that amount of time in a shop and really the less time that you spend in there the safer you are.

‘If you spend time close enough to somebody and they happen to breathe on you or cough on you then it doesn’t take 15 minutes to catch the virus.’  

The intervention came after Downing Street faced criticism for insisting that drinkers must leave pubs and restaurants as soon as they have eaten their meal under new tier restrictions. 

Retailers in England have been hammered during lockdown. An almost empty Oxford Street in central London is pictured on Black Friday last week

Hospitality firms in Tier 2 in England will only be allowed to serve alcohol if it is accompanied with a substantial meal. 

When asked how long drinkers could stay in the pub after purchasing a meal, the PM’s Official Spokesman said last week: ‘We’ve been clear that, in Tier 2 I believe, that you need to have a substantial meal if ordering any alcohol and it remains the case that the guidance says that once the meal is finished, it is at that point.’  

The hardline rule has further enraged the hospitality trade which believes it has been unfairly blamed for the spread of coronavirus, with statistics suggesting only a small number of Covid-19 cases actually originate in pubs, bars and restaurants.  

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