Millions of people find themselves unable to visit friends and family this year due to last-minute restrictions, here, some of those affected tell their story
The UK government announced stricter tier-four measures for several parts of the country on Saturday, forcing many people to cancel their Christmas plans. The level of restriction prohibits travel to and from areas within it, leaving millions of people stranded, unable to visit friends and family over the festive period.
With coronavirus infections rising, and cases of a new variant being found all around the country, this was the correct decision, but was made far too late and in precisely the wrong way – a tweet from an account called Carolin64723572, which turned out to be a Times journalist who had forgotten their Twitter password, announced: “Christmas cancelled for London, South East and East”. It’s incredible, really, that the nation had to learn of a major policy in the middle of a global health pandemic through a burner Twitter account. But here we are.
Not for the first time this year, large swathes of the population have the government to thank for ruining absolutely everything in the most excruciatingly embarrassing way imaginable. The situation is so bad here that yesterday 40 countries immediately banned all UK arrivals due to the dangers posed by the new COVID-19 strain, which was known about since September but action on which was taken only yesterday.
In the midst of all this, people are doing what they can to get by this winter. We caught up with a few people who have found themselves having to make last-minute arrangements due to the tighter restrictions, and spoke about how they plan to rescue their Christmas.
JESS, 27, MANCHESTER
“Me and my partner were supposed to be going to Reading to see my parents for a few days. We normally take it in turns to see each other’s families each year. As well as being obviously gutted, a small part of me was almost relieved because I was so anxious about making my parents ill. But it’s a total shit show. The cost of train tickets, buying food to have in that we hadn’t planned for, all this stuff adds up. If Christmas couldn’t happen then fair enough, but to be told 5 days before is a joke. Only being able to mix on Christmas day is impossible for so many people in this country. It's yet again terrible leadership – Unrealistic, unstable, but ultimately unsurprising.
“My advice to anyone in a similar position would be to just do whatever the fuck you want that day – if you don’t wanna have a roast and just wanna eat pot noodles all day then do it” – Jess, Manchester
“We’re going to spend Christmas in Manchester now. We've just moved here together from London and have talked about doing our own Christmas before so it’s a nice opportunity to do that – it would have just been nice to do that on our own terms. For the big day itself we trekked to a far off Asda on Sunday to get our beloved Quorn roast. My partner also managed to bag the last bottle of knock-off Baileys in Aldi, which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Boxing day will be structured around the Premier League and Linda McCartney sausage rolls. It’s a nice opportunity to make our own Christmas traditions!
“I think my advice to anyone in a similar position would be to just do whatever the fuck you want that day – if you don’t wanna have a roast and just wanna eat pot noodles all day then do it. Christmas is such a pressurised time of year anyway that we should try and be as kind to ourselves as we can.”
SAM, 25, SOUTH EAST LONDON
“Originally I was gonna get the train down to my folks’ in Dorset. I’m pretty devastated about the news really although not hugely surprised. I’ve been having a pretty rough time at work recently and the thought of seeing family and that, and getting out of the flat was the main thing getting me through.
“I shouldn't complain really as I live with my girlfriend and knowing that millions of people have it worse than me is no reason to have a go at the whole situation. We’ve done enough planning now we think. Did the big shop at Aldi last Sunday. Was utter carnage and has given me a newfound appreciation of hosting Christmas as the stress of that was out of this world. Poor me eh?
“We’ve got enough booze to see us through to next year so that should help. Never cooked a roast though so I reckon that’ll be interesting. Also gonna link up with some mates who are gonna be on their own across the day with a few cans and a gentle stroll in the park.”
BRIT, 26, SOUTH LONDON
“I was planning on travelling to my parents’ house on December 23 for about a week. We’d spend the days going on walks, watching rubbish Christmas TV, and eating loads of food. It all happened via text after the tier four announcement was made, so didn’t really feel real. I never thought I wouldn’t be able to be with my family on Christmas Day, but it’s definitely for the best as my dad and grandad are high risk, so I wouldn’t want to bring anything home. Better to be with friends for Christmas Day than kill my family!
“It’s sad though, and will feel weird just Zooming them on the day rather than being with them. I’ll also really miss my mum’s dinner! Weirdly, I feel most sad about them having wrapped presents that they won’t see me open, or having made me a stocking (yes, I’m 26) and having to unpack it all.
“I’m going to be spending Christmas with my boyfriend and his housemates now. We actually started planning for the day the minute we knew our respective Christmases were cancelled. We’re going to try and get a tree and will decorate it with baubles we stole from some trees in the park (sorry to be a Grinch). Then we’ve doled out who’s making/buying what and will do the big Xmas shop today. It’s exciting really because I’ve never done a friends Christmas Day – also will mean I’ll get very drunk which I don’t normally do at home, so… silver lining! Just gotta make sure to get the family Zoom done before drinking too much.”
MALIN, 30, SOUTH LONDON
“Since early on I had realised I wouldn't be going home to Sweden this year, I’d planned to celebrate with my boyfriend’s family according to the three households, five days-rule. But that obviously can’t happen now. Having planned and bought items according to this plan, I felt stressed hearing about tier four, realising some money went down the drain. And of course sad as we’re realising we wouldn't get to see anyone in person.
“Thankfully I’ve got my boyfriend and our cat in a flat of our own that we’ve now decorated to get the x-massy feel. We’re gonna be on video-calls with Swedish friends and families that spend the day isolating over there on December 24, followed by video-calls with the English friends and families who are isolating on December 25.”