Written by Jessica Morris
For the majority of the UK, things aren’t looking too merry and bright this Christmas. Most of England has been under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions since the end of the second lockdown and on average, national cases are rising yet again.
In the summer we had been filled with hope, cases were falling and our in-person social lives had somewhat started to resume. Since September however, we have seen bouts of exponential rises in cases. Thankfully, we have since received the news of the new vaccines and, for the most part, welcomed them with open arms. They definitely incite hope in us that we may see the end of the pandemic sooner than we had first anticipated, but it seems we have a long way to go.
For many people, hearing from Boris that we would be able to spend Christmas in a three-household bubble was great news. After lockdowns and restrictions have taken their toll on the mental health of so many, company is the best gift some people could wish to receive this Christmas. However, it would be misleading to talk about the easing of rules for Christmas as though it is not without its risks.
Various experts have urged for a rethink of the Christmas rules as case numbers soar once again, and now worsened by the ‘new variant’ of coronavirus which has been detected across areas in the south of England. Although experts do not yet know if this is a more contagious or dangerous variant of the virus, it is yet another thing for the UK to worry about and keep an eye on.
We know that transmission of the virus is affected by contact from person to person, so, logically, if more people see each other during the five days of Christmas freedom we are sure to see cases go up. From the reactive strategy we have seen the government take so far, this could mean we see restrictions tighten in the weeks following yuletide festivities. January has often-times been described as the most depressing month of the year. Now, we face the risk of cases soaring at this very time.
The fight against this virus has always presented itself as a balancing act between health risks and the state of the economy. And so, it can’t be forgotten that while the physical health threat of the virus is very real, so is the threat of the restrictions on mental health. During the first national lockdown we were seeing reports that lockdown was deteriorating the nations mental health. Now, months later, in the thick of winter, it’s a worry that we might be facing the toughest restrictions again at such a difficult time.
Some people are taking extra measures such as taking their children out of school for the final week of term, and isolating in advance of seeing family at Christmas so as to avoid passing the virus to them. Zoom Christmas dinners, socially-distanced Christmas day walks, and postponements of the holiday itself are all alternative ways in which people who don’t wish to take the risk this Christmas are choosing to celebrate. Heck, my grandparents have already announced that as soon as they are vaccinated we will be invited round for a ‘Vaccine-mas’ dinner.
Another question we must ask ourselves is, would we do this for any other national holiday? Of course, Christmas means a whole lot to millions of people across the globe. For many, it has become an colossal extension of the typical Christian festival it originated as. Even so, we didn’t do the same for Eid. Lockdown restrictions were announced two hours before Eid, with very little consideration of how this would affect families plans for the celebration. Yet, to ‘save Christmas’, this government appears to be pulling out all the stops.
Whichever way we feel about Christmas this year, this could be a babies first Christmas, and a grandparents last Christmas. Lets hope that we all manage to enjoy the holiday the best way that we see fit. And remember, no need to socially distance from the cheese board and mulled wine!