Names marked with an asterisk * have been changed to protect identities.
London, United Kingdom – That would be “inhuman,” he said last week. But on December 19, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned gatherings for Christmas for millions of people living in England following a rise in coronavirus cases.
The move came as a new strain of COVID, up to 70 percent more transmissible than previous variants, gripping parts of the country.
The ability to mingle with people from three different households in a “Christmas bubble” from 23 to 27 December was completely scrapped when the government introduced strict “Tier 4” social distance restrictions in London and parts of the south-east, approx. one third of England.
These areas are under a home-order, and non-essential stores have been closed.
In the rest of the country in levels 1 to 3, the bubble was pulled back to just Christmas Day on December 25th.
Without action, Johnson said, “infections would rise, hospitals would be overwhelmed and many thousands more would lose their lives”.
Exceptions allow visits to dying people and care.
Some people therefore plan to see relatives who have a terminal illness for what is likely to be their last Christmas together – a collection that is allowed under the rules exceptions.
But others are ready to go against the constraints of comforting family members who have recently been left behind.
Loren * from Northamptonshire will spend Christmas with her mother and five siblings in Manchester, a city in northern England that is subject to Tier 3 rules.
In 2018, her mother, 62, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She decided to stop treatment in July as it had not been effective in fighting the disease.
“I know this will definitely be Mom’s last Christmas. Unfortunately, we do not have time to ‘wait until Easter’, “Loren told Al Jazeera.
Before the pandemic hit, Loren made a two-and-a-half hour drive to visit his mother weekly. But interruptions throughout the year put an end to these frequent visits.
“I am very close to my mother, but I have not seen her half as much as I should have [since the pandemic began]. We FaceTime every day, but it’s not the same. This year has been terrible for her, not being able to go anywhere or socialize, ”she said.
“We just feel like we as a family need to be together this Christmas as we will never get back this time,” she said.
Loren is probably one of the thousands of people in this situation.
Every year, 165,000 people die of cancer in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.
Some residents, such as Rachel * in London, are breaking the rules for keeping company with recently left relatives.
In early December, Rachel lost her father to an untreated and aggressive cancer two weeks before his 72nd birthday.
Rachel’s parents were married for 50 years. They were unable to take on their long-planned cruise to celebrate their golden anniversary in August due to the pandemic. That same month, he was diagnosed with cancer, giving them three months left together.
“In a few weeks, we will have had Dad’s death, his birthday, his funeral, and Christmas,” Rachel said.
Her family of three will be visiting her mother, who lives less than a mile away, for Christmas – a trip she says should be considered an exception for “compassionate” reasons.
“As a family, we support each other in every way we can, including spending Christmas together. We want to get the best out of it, ”said Rachel.
“[I appreciate] the strict rules are required to stop the spread of the virus … [but] adding an extra, stricter level is pointless when not used or enforced consistently. Supermarkets are packed.
“My family and I have done everything we can to make sure we can see my mother safely, including isolating as much as possible in the last few weeks.”
The weekly average rate of coronavirus in the UK has risen by 66 per cent in two weeks and almost doubled in London in the past week. The UK has among the highest COVID deaths in Europe with almost 70,000 deaths and more than two million cases.
Michelle * spends Christmas with her sister and mother in Nottingham in the Midlands region. This is currently allowed under Tier 3 restrictions, but she said that if it were to move in Tier 4, her plans would remain the same.
In the summer, Michelle’s partner died of a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas at the age of 37.
He was in stage four cancer when he was diagnosed in early 2019. Both Michelle and her sister are single mothers and struggle with chronic depression.
“In addition, my mother is also a widow, has her own health conditions, including cancer, and lost her father, my grandfather,” she said.
Christmas Day is especially painful for Michelle’s family.
On December 25 last year, her grandfather died of a stroke.
“Christmas alone would be incredibly difficult,” Michelle said.
“We have all followed the rules, we have not met friends, we have not been to bars or eaten out in restaurants, we have worn our masks and we have kept our distance from people so we feel we are more than allowed this , “she said. “No one deserves to be alone at Christmas.”