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From Monday, as lockdown restrictions are lifted, people in England will be able to meet up as a group of up to six people – or two households – outside, including in private gardens.
Four people tell us about their plans, who they will be meeting and what socialising outdoors again means for them.
‘We’ll just sit with my mother and hold her hand’
Heather McKenzie, 62, a vintage-clothes seller from East Dulwich, London, will take her daughter to visit her mother, Wendy Moorhouse Johns, in Banbury on 29 March.
“It’s my mother’s 88th birthday on Monday, so it’s a great day for us to be allowed to see each other again. She had a rough year, was in and out of hospital and care homes – where she contracted Covid – and is now back at home. She’s living alone and has no relatives in the area, so lockdown has really taken its toll on her. We are travelling up with cake, some flowers and presents. We’ll sit in her garden and hold her hand – I read somewhere that holding someone’s hand is allowed.
“My mother doesn’t have a mobile phone, social media or a computer, so it was difficult to speak to her while she was in hospital. It’s been really hard for her and I hope us being there will cheer her up.”
‘It was heartbreaking that I couldn’t be with my sister after her cancer diagnosis’
Elly Ingram, 37, a massage therapist from Herefordshire, is planning to drive for 2.5 hours to see her sister Jo, 34, who lives in Oxfordshire.
“The last time we saw each other was on Christmas Day, when she came with her two-year-old boy for a couple of hours. I have seen her only a few times in the last year. She got diagnosed with breast cancer in July and it’s broken my heart that I couldn’t be with her more often to support her. We’ve mainly kept in touch via FaceTime and text messages.
“The last time I saw her, she didn’t have any hair, eyebrows or eyelashes, but she finished her chemotherapy in January and her hair has started growing back. It’ll be emotional so see her again. I’ll stay there for about three or four hours, then she has to go to a hospital appointment and I’ll drive back home. After driving that far, I’ll have to go into their house to use the toilet.
“Jo has had her second jab already and I’ve literally only seen my fiance and I’m at home all the time, so I don’t see any risks in visiting her.”
‘We feel it’s a perfect time to celebrate’
Kaveri Sharma, 46, an East Sussex county council employee from Lewes, will throw a birthday party for her teenage son and a small Holi party when restrictions are eased next week.
“On 29 March it’s the Hindu festival of Holi and we have invited another family to help us mark the day. It’s usually quite a messy festival where you throw colour and water at each other. We can’t do that this year, but we’ll play with colours in the garden and share some snacks. Holi is a festival of bringing people together and we feel it’s a perfect time to celebrate,” Sharma says.
“The next day, on Tuesday, my son is turning 12. He had a lockdown birthday last year without a party and we are lucky to be able to invite a few of his friends for a garden “party”. The kids will play Pokémon Go and pass-the-parcel, there’ll be a Pokémon piñata, and then they’ll watch a live magic show over Zoom while still outdoors. I hope the weather will play along.
“In terms of risks, I don’t think they will be higher than when the children are at school together. The kids are all in the same school bubble so we feel it’s as safe as it can be, and we are very excited.”
‘My baby has never met other children’
Emily Smith, 26, a customer adviser in the financial sector from Southport, is looking forward to introducing her baby daughter to family members on the first weekend in April.
“I gave birth to my baby girl in October and what was largely a happy experience was also filled with anxiety and loneliness. Most of my family haven’t met my baby, but now nearly all of them have been vaccinated, and I’ve also had my first jab a few weeks ago, so I’m very excited to get together.
“On 3 April, I will take my daughter for a picnic in the local park to meet my cousins and their children, whom I haven’t seen in over a year. My baby has never met other children and has only ever been with adults. I feel like I have had no real maternity leave. Personally, more than anything I am excited to treat my baby like a baby and not something that I’m afraid will break. It’s going to be so nice to be like a normal mother who takes her baby out, and being able to meet friends and family again will be a relief for so many mums I know.”
Smith’s main concern is that the rules might be tightened again. “Previously, dates have been pushed back and restrictions extended because case numbers rose again after people got excited. I just hope that the vaccinations will prevent the government from having to re-evaluate [the easing of lockdown]. But, I do also worry that people will flout the rules, as they have done before, and ruin it for everyone.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘I hope the weather will play along’: your plans for lockdown easing | Coronavirus