In the days leading up to Christmas, people across the country are rethinking plans and opting to cancel parties or other events in order to voluntarily isolate so they can spend time with their loved ones.
The staggering speed at which the Omicron variant is spreading means that people should consider not mixing “with people you don’t have to” during the festive period, Prof Chris Whitty said during the Covid press briefing last Wednesday.
Pubs and restaurants have reported a wave of cancellations as people decide to impose their own lockdown to avoid catching the virus.
Three people speak about their plans for the countdown to Christmas.
‘We have all agreed to isolate’
Penny, 64, from Pembrokeshire, is eagerly awaiting Christmas Day with her son and his partner, and her daughter who is flying from Sydney. “This will be the first time we have seen each other for two years,” she said. “Assuming this all goes to plan, we are looking forward to the best Christmas. If it falls apart at the last minute, we will be absolutely devastated.”
As a result, the family are being extra careful. “We cannot risk any Covid infection preventing our reunion, so we have all agreed to isolate from now on. We will be doing regular lateral flow tests between now and then. Our daughter will of course be PCR-tested before she travels and again on arrival at Heathrow.”
As she will need to fly back to Australia after Christmas, the family’s self-imposed isolation will continue throughout the festive period. “While she is with us, we will not see anyone else at all. Many of her old friends have had babies since she was last here, and in normal circumstances, she would of course be meeting them all. This time it is out of the question.
“The wider family would love to see her and we usually arrange a big get-together when she is in the UK. But this time she will not be able to see uncles, aunties, cousins or friends. Everyone understands that they will only see her on Zoom.”
‘I’m finding separation from my wife quite difficult’
Peter Martin Copping, 82, who lives inBury St Edmunds, Suffolk, has been mainly self-isolating since the beginning of the pandemic by staying home and working on his garden. His wife, Phyl, 77, has dementia and recently moved into a nursing home, so his main priority is to be able to stay safe in the days leading up to Christmas so he can celebrate with her.
“I’ve been promised I can see her on Christmas Day at 2pm, so I’m being very, very careful,” he said. “I go out as little as possible except for food shopping and I keep myself busy by looking after our house and garden.”
Copping was invited to Christmas lunch by his sister-in-law but decided against it. “My plan on Christmas Day is to go for a bike ride in the country and then come back here and do myself a meal. I jokingly tell people Christmas meal is two sausages, egg, bacon, chips, and beans, but I have a small turkey joint in the freezer.
“My wife and I have been together for 60 years. We met on my first day out of the RAF and we’ve not been apart since. She loves gardening and every time I go into the garden it’s a reminder of her. I’m finding this separation pretty difficult.”
‘In blended families like our own, it’s more complex’
Annette, 51, from Cambridgeshire, has gone into “voluntary lockdown” along with her partner and younger son, 14. Her older son, 17, continued to go to sixth form last week although classes had become increasingly empty. “I would be happier if masks were compulsory in classrooms as he is not comfortable with wearing one because the majority don’t, and he does not want to stand out as one of the few mask wearers.”
Annette’s sons plan to spend the first week of the Christmas holidays with their dad, and the second week with her. In order for her sons to be able to spend Christmas with their parents as well as visit elderly relatives, the family has to be extremely careful not to catch Covid. They get vegetable boxes delivered instead of shopping in supermarkets, and decided to decline an invite to a Christmas party at a friend’s house last weekend.
“In blended families like our own, it is more complex. If anyone tests positive, none of our plans work any more. We would have to figure out what to do, but it would probably mean the boys missing seeing one of their parents on Christmas Day.
“I was grateful to have had my booster jab a month ago, but my partner only had his last week and I am sure many other parents are still waiting for theirs while their children have been in schools where Covid was spreading like wildfire.
“If we all make it to new year without testing positive, we will go and visit my parents who are in their 80s and were previously shielding. If all fails, family celebrations will have to be on Zoom, assuming we are all well enough for that.”