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Christmas has forced many families to make difficult decisions over the risks they are prepared to take to spend time together. While some still plan to meet with another two households, in line with the government’s guidance, others have decided not to.
‘The vaccine changes the decision-making process’
Iain Fraser, a GP from Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, and his wife, Shehzana, also a GP, decided that it wasn’t worth taking a risk with Christmas gatherings when the prospect of getting a vaccine was so close.
“We’ve been mulling it over, and it’s not an easy thing to do as we haven’t seen my grandson since before lockdown in March,” said Iain, who retired as a partner at his practice two months ago. “But the vaccine being around the corner changes the decision-making process. If there had been no end in sight we might have said, ‘We have to get on with our lives.’ But with the positive news about the vaccine it seems unnecessary.”
Iain was also concerned that the decision to allow households to meet over Christmas would cause more people to die from the coronavirus, and put extra strain on the NHS. He and Shehzana are returning to the health service to help administer the vaccine.
“My wife is British Asian, so has a slightly higher risk, but overall our individual risks aren’t too high,” he said. “But we’re feeling that the decision was taken on a populist basis rather than because it was the rational thing to do. The reality is that in the NHS, the resources are barely there to do to the day job, let alone the rest.”
‘It will just me, 15 ferrets and a snake’
Dominic, 42, works night shifts in a supermarket in Bristol and will be spending Christmas alone instead of making his usual trip to Somerset to spend the festive period with his parents.
“I’d originally planned to visit my parents near Yeovil on Christmas day between shifts at work – I finish at 7am on the 24th then need to be back in at 9pm on the 26th. This would be difficult enough, but my parents live in a tier 2 area, and I don’t feel comfortable going down to visit them coming from Bristol, which is tier 3. It just seems illogical to make the trip down and put them at risk for just one day. Now my plans are to stay at home, and it will be like a normal lockdown day for me, just me, my 15 ferrets and a snake.”
Despite missing out on a family Christmas, Dominic considers himself relatively lucky. “I have fared better than most during the pandemic, I have work, where I’m still seeing people, so I’m not just stuck at home, and it’s a family atmosphere among colleagues. We’re all aware that if one of us gets it we will all get it, as social distancing is not always easy at work. So we are cautious and want to protect our families.”
‘I feel really sad it’s come to this’
Joanna Flint, 69, who lives in east Devon, made the decision not to bubble with her family last weekend.
“The fact that it’s now winter, and there’s a risk of flu, and that both my grandchildren are at school where there are a high number of cases, changed my mind,” she said. “We’d left the decision as long as we could. It was a very difficult decision to make.”
Flint will instead spend Christmas with her husband, perhaps taking a walk on nearby Dartmoor.
“I feel really sad that it’s come to this,” she said. “I feel so frustrated and angry that we’re in this situation because of the government’s handling of things. I feel I can’t trust the government guidance, it doesn’t seem like its being led by the science.
“It’s very difficult for my family, particularly my grandchildren, who don’t really understand why I can’t come to see them,” she added. “Christmas is very important, and it’s been such a hard year that we were looking forward to it. But we’ve got this far, and don’t want to jeopardise anything now.”
‘I will be alone for the first time since the 80s’
Derek Manson-Smith, 76, from Glasgow, normally spends the festive period with multiple family members at one of his children’s houses. “Last year, it was around 20 of us on Christmas eve. But this year, I will be alone for the first time since the mid-80s.”
The family, which normally comes together from Scotland, Birmingham, Sussex, London, Canada and South Africa, have decided to cancel this year’s reunion.
“We have all agreed that, for this one Christmas and with the prospect of a vaccine, travelling to London would be simply crazy. We will make up for it next year. This Christmas will just be a non-event for me, but I will see them all once vaccinated,” Manson-Smith said.
“I will have a nice piece of fish with some good white wine, salad and cheese. All the grandchildren, in the UK and Canada, will be getting presents. And for the adults, Secret Santa will provide. All ordered online. And there will be Zoom and Skype calls with family in the UK, Canada and South Africa. I’d like to be alive for next year’s Christmas.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘I’d like to be alive next year’: Britons avoiding a family Christmas due to Covid | Coronavirus