On Monday London, South Essex and South Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3 restrictions. These counties joined Kent whose residents are already undergoing the tougher new measures. The government made this decision in order to battle with an exceptional rise in cases, as hospital admissions rose across the board, just as medical institutions enter their most demanding time of year.
Many adults in the country are debating the wiseness of a Christmas with the relaxation of social distancing rules. Over the 5 days of holidays government advice currently allows up to 3 households to meet up this year. The shops remain bustling with festive purchasers, especially during the weekends in Sussex, which is good for jobs in the local industry. The arts and hospitality sectors have been even harder hit by the unplanned events, due to the pandemic and the mandatory closures in Tier 2 and Tier 3 that has followed in most areas of England.
At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear to smart people that care about their families that the annual traditions of the winter festival need to be very different this month. Leaving gifts for the tree on the doorstep at the homes of our ‘nearest and dearest’ if we live close by to them is prudent. Enjoying a stroll in the countryside or by the sea, is the kindest and best present to give to those we love and want to see keeping well throughout 2021. Packing hot drinks, mince pies or stopping off at a cafe take away stall is a much safer idea than having everyone over to your house to share a meal around the table.
If our relations live further afield then opening presents together with a video call instead is sensible. Where possible using technology to meet online instead is definitely using sound judgement. Creative solutions so far include family quiz games and outdoor carols to entertain the neighbours, which can then be recorded and sent to those at the top of our Christmas list.
What seemed like a jolly idea to give us something to look forward to at a time when many have not seen their elderly and close relations for nearly twelve months, now seems like a risk we would be crazy to take. Rising cases of Covid-19 across the country have closed schools early. The fact that it is possible to be asymptomatic with coronavirus means that it is entirely possible to unwittingly pass on the contagion to anyone that comes into close contact with each other during the five allocated holidays. Boris Johnson’s government tried to give everyone advanced warning so they could plan trains and transport for up to 3 households getting together but now the ‘R’ number is going up again, this optimistic plan just seems too risky.
The idea that 3 households can mix up for up to five days when some areas are doubling with infections as the December weeks go by, is very alarming. Although it is understandable that very old, infirm and vulnerable adults are desperate to see their loved ones, surely the stakes are just to high to take a chance? With a mass vaccination program underway it must be advisable that every adult that possibly can, should postpone getting together for a family party, until later in the Spring. By March the NHS won’t be under pressure from their annual flu season and quite possibly a third wave of Covid-19.
If families can be cautious and strong and wait until we have all had a vaccine and can more easily meet outdoors in a groups, then we will save many hundreds of lives. We can also prevent more further lengthy lockdowns that are crippling the economy and causing hardship for millions on low incomes.
How we socialise this Christmas can prevent people being hospitalised with the dangerous contagion. We can then focus our national resources on treating those with other serious and life threatening illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Today the government seemed to be backtracking their original guidance but they stopped short of cancelling the ‘relaxation of rules’ over Christmas.
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty warned: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s sensible in any way.” (2)
In Wales a ‘stay at home lockdown’ was announced that will commence as soon as the Christmas period is over closing all non-essential shops. To underline the seriousness of the situation the Welsh government has reduced the number of households that can meet to a maximum of 2 at this special time.
Nicola Sturgeon issued tougher guidance for Scotland urging people to “stay within your own household and your own home. Those who feel it is essential to visit another household indoors should only do so on one of the five days. Any interaction with other households should ideally be outdoors.” (3)
During a phone in on BBC2 radio this afternoon Jeremy Vine summed up the mood by exclaiming “Who is going to be brave and just say Christmas is cancelled?” Being cautious about meeting others particularly our older citizens and those who are vulnerable will ensure they have the chance to have a healthy new year. Plus we will give them the opportunity to have a vaccine and then be able to enjoy a social and merry 2021. Who doesn’t want that freedom and joy for their loved ones?
(1) ‘London, South Essex, and South Hertfordshire to move to Tier 3 restrictions’ Department of Health and Social Care, 14 December 2020 ‘London, South Essex, and South Hertfordshire to move to Tier 3 restrictions’ Department of Health and Social Care
(2) ‘Covid Christmas rules: Boris Johnson calls for shorter, smaller celebrations’ BBC News 16 December 2020 ‘Covid Christmas rules: Boris Johnson calls for shorter, smaller celebrations’ BBC News
(3) ‘Covid: Tougher guidance issued for Christmas in Scotland’, BBC News, 16 December 2020 ‘Covid: Tougher guidance issued for Christmas in Scotland’, BBC News