This year, twice the number of people are expected to be spending Christmas alone due to the pandemic, a recent poll conducted by the Observer has revealed.
2020 has been extremely hard for everyone across the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With the news of the new vaccine being announced and Christmas just around the corner, many of us have been feeling in higher spirits excited for all this to be over and finally spend quality family time with loved ones over the Christmas period. This isn’t the case for all.
Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t going to take a Christmas break and allow us all to resume back to normality over the holiday season. Despite the restrictions being eased off and the nation being allowed to see their loved ones, many members of the public are going to be spending Christmas alone this year in fear of taking the virus home with them.
Joanna, 24, studying animal behaviour at Birmingham University, currently living in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria as part of her internship, will be spending Christmas alone this year. “It’s the first time ever that I will be spending Christmas alone, as sad as that makes me, I know I will feel even more guilty if I went home hand in hand with Covid and gave it to my family”.
As per government guidelines, when Joanna returns back from Bulgaria, she will have to complete a 14 day quarantine period. Due to Joanna’s mother having a health condition which puts her on the Covid-19 high risk list, Joanna has made the difficult decision to not only isolate alone but to also not come back home at all over her Christmas break. “With mum recently becoming at high risk, I just can’t afford to come home. If I already have the virus or even if I get a negative test before and then contracted it on my way home, I’d feel too guilty”.
On January 1st it will be exactly 1 year since Joanna last saw her family back in Exeter. “I haven’t been home in nearly a year, I haven’t seen my mum or my sister in nearly a year, that’s upsetting in itself, but what’s even more upsetting is not knowing when I will actually see them next”. Despite the news of a vaccine against this awful virus, returning back to normality still seems so far into the future, especially for young people due to us being low in the priority list for the vaccine. “Universities haven’t been doing very well as we all know, I’m not at all judging anyone who is going home for the holiday’s, personally for me it’s not a risk that I’m willing to take”.
Ella, 22, from Exeter, has also decided to spend Christmas alone away from her family members for the first time in 22 years. “My mum has lost her best friend 6 days after she contracted the virus, it’s crazy to me that people are willing to risk the lives of loved ones and others around them for some presents, a roast and some drinks”. Ella is currently working at a Covid-19 testing site and hasn’t seen her family in over 5 months. “I last saw my mum in her back garden with 2 meter distance between us before I started working here, I haven’t taken the risk of seeing her because she cares for my grandparents, if they catch the virus it could cost them their lives, I don’t want to risk that”.
Back in June, Ella contracted the virus and spent 2 weeks bed bound with symptoms she didn’t expect to experience. “It was horrendous. I’m young, with no underlying health conditions. I felt like someone was constantly sitting on my chest”. Two of Ella’s work colleagues at her previous employment also got infected with the virus, they too were in their early 20’s with no underlying health conditions, they too experienced symptoms more severe than anticipated. “To be honest, because all three of us are so young and none of us have any health conditions, we thought we wouldn’t even suffer with any symptoms. We used to sit at work and think that it was just like the flu, we definitely couldn’t have been more wrong, it was so much worse than that for us”.
Sinead, 34, currently working on a Coronavirus ward at Exeter hospital, will also be spending Christmas away from her family home back in Ireland. “Despite being allowed to go back home for Christmas, I’m definitely not taking that risk”. Since the start of the pandemic, the ward Sinead works on was one of the first to get converted into a Covid ward. Despite being provided with the appropriate PPE and regular testing for all staff members, Sinead has seen the effect that this virus has had on her patients as well as their family, and feels that the risk of taking the virus home with her for the Christmas holidays is high. “I’ve spent every day since the pandemic began caring for Covid patients. It’s a wonderful feeling when you know you have helped someone recover fully from this disease and that you helped get them back to their families. I’ve also cared for people who have unfortunately not made it out of hospital”. Sienad will be spending this Christmas Day at work on a Covid-19 ward. “I would much rather be at work to keep myself distracted from the fact that i’m not with my family this year. It’s the first year since I was born that I will be away from my family”.
In previous years, only 4% of the population spent Christmas alone, this year following the Coronavirus pandemic, this number has doubled to 8%. Due to the virus having a significant effect on the elderly, this year 1.7 million people over the age of 64 will be spending Christmas away from their families.
The new Covid guidelines that have been introduced over the Christmas period allow us to mix with up to three households between the 23rd and 27th December. Scientists have already given a warning that the easing of restrictions over those days can lead to a second national lockdown and even more deaths due to Covid. Despite being allowed to mix, millions of people are reluctant to do so in fear of taking the virus home with them to their loved ones.