CHRISTMAS relaxation could be a "mistake" which will have "consequences" if people travel for the festive season, says public health expert.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, is concerned that relaxing the restrictions throughout the UK over Christmas could see people travelling from areas with high infections to parts of the country with lower prevalence of the virus.

She said: “From a public health perspective, I have to be perfectly honest, I think this is a mistake.

“I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside, or do it in a very modest way.

“I’m also concerned about the travel, people going from high to low-prevalence areas. I think it’s going to have consequences.”

The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a joint plan to relax social distancing rules for five days over the festive period, between December 23 and 27, allowing friends and family to hug for the first time in months.

However, Prof Bauld added if the Government reneged on the pledge then trust in politicians could erode further.

She went on: “I completely understand why governments are doing that. Behaviourally people are fed up.

“If you’re meeting people indoors from other households, there’s poor ventilation, maybe older family members are in those bubbles, unfortunately because the virus hasn’t been eliminated. I think that means the Christmas period is a risk.”

The latest coronavirus rolling rates for all six areas for the seven days to December 7 which were published on Friday (December 11) show that Burnley and Pendle are currently the worst hit areas in East Lancashire, both with rates of over 260 cases per 100,000 whilst Ribble Valley has a rate of 161.0 per 100,000.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, earlier this week warned the public to be “very, very sensible” and not go “too far” over Christmas, which he called a “very risky period”.

Scientists have already urged people to rethink Christmas amid rising infections, warning the country is heading towards “disaster”.

Independent Sage has said that just because people can meet up, it does not mean they should.

They are also calling for a pandemic fuel allowance so people can keep their homes ventilated while at the same time turning up the heating to stay warm.