EXPERTS are warning that it could be a "nationwide superspreader event".

No, not Christmas, but something very similar: Thanksgiving.

Today Americans traditionally gather for their biggest family holiday of the year in a celebration that essentially mirrors a British Christmas Day, in that it involves overindulgence in turkey and trimmings, excess alcohol, and multiple relatives.

This year the festivities are taking place amid rocketing Covid infection rates and hospitalisations, leading doctors and public health specialists to call for caution.

HeraldScotland: US cases are continuing to climbUS cases are continuing to climb

Since September 30, Covid cases in the US have quadrupled from a daily average of 13 cases per 100,000 to 52 per 100,000, with no sign of a slowdown.

Between October 16 and November 16, the number of people hospitalised with the infection more than doubled to a record 73,000, with confirmed Covid deaths rising 66 per cent over the same period.

Dr Anthony Fauci, an infectious diseases expert and the top public health official in the White House, warned that a surge of Thanksgiving travellers could translate to a surge in cases before Christmas.

READ MORE: Where did it all go wrong? The data shows the missteps which have led Scotland back to lockdown

He has urged Americans to avoid travel and household mixing over Thanksgiving, stressing that crowded airports are "going to get us into even more trouble" - but millions looked set to defy those calls.

Dr Fauci told the Washington Post: "The travel, the congregate setting, not wearing masks, the chances are that you will see a surge superimposed upon a surge.

"What we're doing now is going to be reflected two, three weeks from now."

The US has already seen the danger play out in neighbouring Canada, which celebrates its Thanksgiving day on October 12.

Canadians were urged to keep their family gatherings small but within three weeks of Thanksgiving, in early November, the country was experiencing a national spike in cases and rolling out tough new restrictions, with the holiday blamed as the catalyst.

In Toronto, a Thanksgiving party with an extended family reportedly led to 10 Covid-19 infections, including three babies.

The virus also spread to another household, infecting four more people, and to a workplace where two more people were infected with the virus.

According to Canada's Public Health Agency, the country went from diagnosing more than 2,000 cases per day in mid-October to an average of 4,776 a day by last week, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now imploring Canadians to stay home and avoid travelling in order to "flatten this curve".

"We all want to try and have as normal a Christmas as possible even though a normal Christmas is, quite frankly, right out of the question," said Mr Trudeau last Friday (perhaps begging the question whether Canada hasn't learned its lessons from Thanksgiving?).

READ MORE: Christmas and Hogmanay - the rules for Scotland

In the UK, families have been told they can celebrate by bringing three households together for up to five days, from December 23 to 27.

HeraldScotland:

We are certainly starting from a better position than the US: in Scotland, the average virus rate has already fallen from a peak of 24 cases per 100,000 per day on October 26 to 15 per 100,000 per day now, and if the currently trajectory continues the prevalence should halve by Christmas.

Even the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire health board areas, worst hit in the second wave, are showing signs of a clear downward trend: Lanarkshire is now reporting 51% fewer cases per day on average than it was on October 21, with a 39.5% reduction in the GGC region since November 7.

HeraldScotland:

HeraldScotland: The number of positive Covid cases being detected in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (top) and NHS Lanarkshire (bottom) is showing a steady declineThe number of positive Covid cases being detected in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (top) and NHS Lanarkshire (bottom) is showing a steady decline

Nonetheless, experts here are adamant that we will pay for Christmas gatherings with January lockdowns, as cases, hospitalisations and deaths spike for a third time.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious disease expert and UK SAGE advisor, warned that the relaxations will "throw fuel on the Covid fire" by increasing transmission from pre- and asymptomatic younger people to older relatives.

"We're in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," he added.

HeraldScotland: The Covid picture in Europe and the Americas is vastly different from the Asia Pacific region, which relied on closed borders and a robust test, trace and isolate strategy from the outsetThe Covid picture in Europe and the Americas is vastly different from the Asia Pacific region, which relied on closed borders and a robust test, trace and isolate strategy from the outset

Scottish Government advisor and Edinburgh University's global public health chair, Professor Devi Sridhar, logically questioned whether it is worth it to risk infection when hope of an end to the pandemic is so near.

She said: "The future is bright, we have vaccines, three now which are effective, we have mass testing coming online, so why risk getting infected in the next few weeks when actually in the next few months we’ll be in a fundamentally different position and a much safer one."

Ironically, the very thing that set off the global spread of Covid is believed to have been another major festivity - Chinese new year - which saw an exodus of five million people from the virus epicentre of Wuhan to homes across South-East Asia, before a travel ban was implemented on January 23.

China succeeded in curbing its outbreak, in part, by citizens staying at home and limiting their social contacts.

We would be wise to do the same.