A potentially more contagious new strain of coronavirus is threatening to completely ruin Christmas, one of the most sacred festivals for billions of Christians around the globe. People from different parts of the world have shared their stories about how they are going to celebrate the winter holidays amid the swirling pandemic.
A new strain of SARS-CoV-2 discovered this month in the UK has sent stocks tumbling and prompted the suspension of flights from Britain to countries throughout the world, including Spain, Italy, Canada, India and Hong Kong. The news came as millions of people worldwide are preparing to celebrate Christmas together with their family and friends. While the governments are calling upon people to observe quarantine measures, and with Britain backtracking on relaxing rules on holidays, no rational argument can prevent people from feeling sad and frustrated, given that the pandemic has been raging on for almost year, isolating communities and weakening family connections.
Parts of England Under Strict Lockdown, Again
“The restrictions imposed yesterday affected two of our daughters who are now unable to travel out of their areas. This means that we cannot have them with us as planned over Christmas. Therefore we shall be at home by ourselves. Very upsetting and disappointing,” says Margaret, who lives in England, adding that her biggest regret by far is not being able to see her children and grandchildren.
Her town is in Tier 2 so they can go out, shop, and eat out, but not meet anyone besides the people in their bubble indoors, she explains. Having introduced the tier system to curb the second wave of the pandemic, the Johnson government imposed a lockdown on over 16 million people in England, warning that the UK is dealing with a new COVID strain which is up to 70% more transmissible than the original one.
“I agree with mask-wearing in shops and frequent hand washing,” Margaret says. “It is hard to agree with some of the restrictions which appear to contradict each other e.g. fine to attend church or other religious services but not to meet your family.”
She recalls that usually they would cook a Christmas dinner for at least one of their daughters and her family and see the others for a meal during the holiday period.
Despite obvious disappointment, she expresses her gratitude for her family being healthy, adding that she hopes that the COVID vaccine rollout will get life back to near normal by Easter or, at least, by summer.
A Quiet Christmas Party in Toronto
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Toronto, Alessandro Bruno, a writer and editor at “Geopolitical Monitor” is preparing to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve quietly, in a narrow circle of family. “Frankly that’s how I like it,” he says. “I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Eve.”
Over half of Canadians have decided to celebrate Christmas with their immediate family members, according to GlobeNewswire. Some of its provinces are mulling over hardening coronavirus measures: thus, the Ontario government is planning to impose a province-wide lockdown beginning Christmas Eve.
“I don’t agree with the restrictions,” notes Bruno. “I’m not quite convinced this pandemic is any worse than the previous big name flu outbreaks: SARS, swine flu etc. I think the whole world has gone completely mad.”
Bruno is an Italian living in Canada and he loves travelling. His favourite destination is the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful stretch of coastline in the south of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. Unfortunately, this year Bruno had no chance to go there due to COVID restrictions. He has also lost his main source of employment and income. “It’s been a horrible year,” he says.
“That said, I have been practising the piano much more than usual. I’ve also been writing more audacious articles about Middle Eastern politics. Perhaps, I’ll be able to write a book as well,” the journalist highlights, confessing that he is dreaming of swimming and diving underwater in his beloved Mediterranean in Capri as soon as possible.
A San Franciscan Celebrates the Holidays in Saint Petersburg
Meanwhile, Stan Jacox from California is going to spend the winter holidays in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and he feels quite excited about it.
“I am thankful for having been in Russia, around my friends and favourite city during the crisis instead of being back in my native US,” says Stan.
His main business is local tourism, with two federally registered tour operator companies that introduce foreigners, mostly Americans and British, to Russia, in St Petersburg. Needless to say, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the tourism business, he admits.
“My biggest regret was the closed borders and lack of tourists because it was a very lean year economically,” he notes. “But everyone I know handled it well and depression did not set in. With the low cost of living and low personal debt compared to Europe or the US, Russians were much less impacted. The worst damage was to some small businesses – like my two favourite small music clubs closed.”
Life hasn’t changed very much for Stan, as he never had an extravagant lifestyle. He is grateful that none of his many friends were badly impacted or got sick. He hails a relatively easy access to health care in Russia which was available to those who needed it. “Overall, the government handled [the pandemic] well, especially since it was a new unknown threat that had no clear solution,” he stresses.
“My dreams? Easy, the opening of the border with a new tourist season, visiting Crimea before the summer crowds, exploring the Far East by train, [and] meeting a great woman,” Stan says. “I have a lot of life experiences, having been successful in a couple of careers, and travelled the world, 91 countries, and that convinced me that material wealth is nothing compared to emotional wealth and the happiest single day was when I gave everything away to simplify my life.”
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