When Laura, from Flitwick in Bedfordshire, read that TV presenter Victoria Derbyshire had been forced to apologise after saying she planned to have seven – not the regulation six – members of her family to Christmas dinner, she felt some sympathy.
“One day isn’t going to hurt,” the retiree said. “I’m not a rule-breaker generally, but if my friends were OK with it then we’d go ahead and meet each other.”
Laura and her husband normally spend Christmas with two other couples who live locally to them. “Like us, they don’t have family visiting during that time so we take it in turns to host the day so everyone only has to cook once every three years.
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“My friends are either retired or work from home and we have all been fairly careful through the pandemic and keep our distance when we visit one another indoors. I’m prepared to break the rules but I can’t speak for my husband or my friends.”
She plans on going ahead with their Christmas tradition regardless of whether her area will be in tier 3, where people are prohibited from socialising with anybody they do not live with. “I’ve always followed the rules but, quite honestly, the last few months I don’t really know what they are. Increasingly I feel that me obeying the rules isn’t doing much when so many others break them all the time.”
Sally, 37, who lives in York, which is currently tier 2, will be returning home to Somerset, in tier 1, but will try to self-isolate beforehand. “For the 14 days before I go home, I’m going to stay indoors and not go out to any shops,” she said. “It won’t be fun but at least I’m trying to be safe.”
Sally lives in a houseshare and has missed not being able to see her family. “I haven’t been able to go home since January and I’ve only seen my parents and brother once in August when they came for a socially-distanced weekend and stayed outside the city. I don’t have a car and am avoiding public transport so it’s been a very long year with lots of solitary walks.
“I’m very confused by all the rules and it’s been very lonely being by myself so much, but the thought of maybe going home for Christmas is powering me through.”
In North Yorkshire, financial services consultant Alex Crawford has accepted he and his grandmother won’t be seeing the rest of their family over the festive period. “It will just be the two of us at Christmas due to the risk that the virus poses to both of us,” he said.
Crawford, 27, who had a kidney transplant in 2016, has been shielding with his 92-year-old grandmother since July. He had previously been living with his girlfriend with whom he shares a flat in London but, when she got a new job, he was unable to continue shielding at home. “For Christmas my granny and I will play games, cook a nice meal together, share stories and connect with our wider family via Zoom.
“I would normally spend the day with my dad, stepmum and the rest of the family whereas my granny would be with her other children. I was worried she would find it difficult but, from a sensible point of view, she’s come to accept that this is the way things have to be. Whilst it will be strange, we know that this is the right thing in order to protect our health, others and the NHS, which may be in a more precarious situation come Christmas.”
*Some names have been changed.
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