The town’s health chief says he isn't being the fun police this Christmas, but has urged anyone feeling unwell to stay at home - even if it’s just a tummy bug.

Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern has encouraged them to be mindful over the festive period so Covid case numbers can continue to drop.

The latest figures show Swindon has a lower case rate than the national average.

He said: “I want you to have fun but I don’t want you to come down with Covid for Christmas.

“If you’re feeling unwell in any way, then just don’t go - whether it’s Covid or not. We don’t want to be passing nasty bugs around.

“We are on the cusp of going into the festive season so it’s really just a bit of a heads up.

“We are mindful that we want people to really enjoy and celebrate Christmas this year because we know that it wasn’t such a celebratory event last year.

“I’m asking residents to be mindful of the risk you’re putting yourself at if you’re attending parties and events.”

The public health team is working on guidance for schools so they can hold Christmas celebrations in a Covid-safe way.

He added: “We’re not being the fun police here and we want to help schools enjoy Christmas as they normally do.”

As of yesterday, the Covid case rate in Swindon stood at 361.6 cases per 100,000 compared to 428.4 per 100,000 in England and 525.1 per 100,000 in the south west.

Case numbers in Swindon have been dropping by 10 per cent each week for the past few weeks.

There were 806 new Covid cases during the last seven days.

In his briefing Prof Maddern touched on worrying news about a new variant identified in South Africa which could evade vaccines and be more infectious.

He advised residents that they should not be “overly concerned at this point”.

He explained: “The key message is that we have no noted cases at this moment. It is newly identified and we are doing everything we can to prevent that variant coming into this country.

“To have a strain that is more transmissible and not respond to vaccines is really concerning, particularly for our vulnerable groups, but it is still early days at the moment.”

The health chief also reported that there have been incidents of verbal aggression towards staff at vaccine centres recently.

He said: “It is completely unacceptable as vaccine workers are doing this on top of a very busy day job. Please be kind and respectful when you’re attending vaccine sites.”