In years to come we’ll surely all agree that not only has 2020 been the crappiest year ever but that ‘those words’ – ‘coronavirus’, ‘lockdown’, ‘the R-number’ to name but a few, conjured up nothing but fear, depression and abject misery in a great many number of us.
The extent of all that this pandemic has caused will not be known for years but it will be substantial – very substantial. Apart from the death toll of over 40,000 (so far) in the UK (and remember we still have to negotiate the annual influenza eruption) we will see thousands, maybe tens of thousands die from ‘neglect’ ( failing to attend to pressing medical issues through sheer fear); mental health issues which will lead many to a premature death and the obliteration of the economy which will spell words like ‘redundancy’, ‘reposession’ and ‘bankruptcy’ for countless individuals and families. A tsunami of distress, dilemma and danger for a great many.
Now, as if enough salt hasn’t already been rubbed into our collective open wound, must we contemplate the prospect of Christmas effectively being all but cancelled…??? Can it really be that coronavirus could be the Grinch that stole Christmas 2020?
After the plethora of localised lockdown announcements in the last 10 days or so, this is a question on many people’s lips. Three days ago, the UK government confirmed that gatherings of more than six people will be illegal across England as from Monday. Scotland has its’ own issues as an equivalent. The limited exceptions will extend to education, a few very limited sporting events and guest-limited weddings and mourner-limited funerals. Not immediately fearing what this might mean with the big day a little over three months away, the Press at that announcement were quick to seek clarification. One even asked if, as a result of the new batch of restrictions, Christmas might even be ‘cancelled’. ” I’m still hopeful, as I’ve said before, that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas”, came the less than optimistic retort from our PM.
Professor Chris Whitty, the much maligned Chief Medical Officer said that the latest restrictions will be here ‘for a while’, without embellishing on the subjective nature of the word ‘while’. “In terms of the existing restrictions, people should see this as the next block of time”, he uttered dispiritingly. “That may not last many months, but it is very unlikely to be over in just two or three weeks”. There have been suggestions that the restrictions may very well be with us until the Spring of 2021, a thought that will fill most with dread and major unease.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock used the startling phrase ” for the foreseeable future” when asked for his take on it all. Perhaps the gloomiest of all comment came when he added that, “I’d like to be able to relax them before Christmas, obviously”, but when pushed to clarify if families will be able to celebrate together by then, he acknowledged, “not necessarily….”. Yikes.
Of course in July, Muslim families in the North-West of England were forced to drastically alter or cancel long-awaited Eid celebrations with literally a few hours’ notice when new localised lockdown rules and restrictions were imposed. So we know that there will be no hesitation if similar decisions are required in December.
Those ‘in the know’ seem to all agree that the 6-person rule ( and corresponding restrictions elsewhere in the U.K.) is likely to be around for the longer, rather than shorter term. As one Consultant Virologist put it, the re-opening of schools and the return of many university and college students is likely to ‘make further outbreaks more likely’. Just as we have witnessed over the last couple of weeks.
Christmas Day itself is likely to be less of a problem than the run-up as Christmas itself tends to be a fairly family-orientated time – many of us tend to engage in a three day self-imposed style lockdown ( not the best choice of word) every year, disappearing from the 23rd of December and rarely re-emerging again until the 27th. But the 3-4 weeks pre-Christmas Day is when we like to mix with friends and families, go shopping with eye-watering numbers of others, meet for meals and indulge in excessive drinking. Let’s face it, totally over the top and disproportionate socialising is one of the many joys of the festive season 😊.
Then there are the students – notorious for their love of a good party (believe me, I know 😉). Are we really expecting them to leave each other mid-ish December just with a nod and a coffee…?? Or the new bizarre ritual of ‘touching elbows’…?? Unlikely. More likely are parties galore with no cognisance at all of even basic social distancing or other ‘pandemic-related’ etiquette. They ‘ll then separate all over the country as they travel ‘home’ – possibly taking and spreading the virus as they go.
Let’s hope any offices that are actually back at work elect voluntarily and without fuss to forego the annual Christmas sesh. At least the office junior will breathe a sigh of relief that Roger from accounts won’t be leering over them, having had 12 bottles of Babycham.
But, in general, what a totally unpalatable thought that Christmas, irrespective of any religious connotation, may not ‘take place as we know it’. After what we have endured for the last six months, I think many of us were looking on the yuletide celebrations as a much needed release from it all. To now contemplate that that, too, might be kiboshed, is almost too much to bear.
What a horrific year in so many ways. Do you know what? Get stuffed 2020. I’m sick of you.