It’s a shame that we can’t negotiate with Covid-19.
If fighting this virus were all about making an argument and debating its merits, we would be the country for work. After all, we’ve been training for this since 2014.
Sadly, the coronavirus ignores the logic, intricacies, or the alluring dance of negotiation. All he cares about is having access to poorly ventilated rooms full of people.
Which brings us to the great Christmas dilemma.
Our politicians are now faced with the unenviable task of achieving two competing goals and coming up with a plan that the public can support. After the misery of 2020, there is an understandable desire to have a Christmas as normal as possible. Still, the pursuit of that normalcy could come at the cost of our most wanted yet: virus removal.
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Christmas is less than five weeks away. The coronavirus has been with us for almost a year, and just like the rest of us, it’s unlikely it’s heading to a nice place to vacation.
Although there is disagreement over the strategy, politicians from all parties are united in their desire to reduce the prevalence of the virus, minimize deaths and ensure that the tighter restrictions we have endured in recent months do not have not been in vain.
As the big day approaches, speculation is growing about how Christmas as we know it can play out, without risking the gains we have already made through our collective efforts.
One of the suggestions put forward is that for every day of freedom and good humor, we would face five days of tighter restrictions.
How this would work in practice is not yet clear.
In First Ministers Questions Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon said she had not seen the data behind the proposal. Instead, she said her government would come to a sound and sensible judgment after taking advice from the chief medical officer and officials she commissioned to come up with concrete proposals for Christmas. She said she hoped to be able to share these proposals with the public as early as next week.
An obvious answer?
Whether they choose a four-country approach or go their own way, the Christmas conundrum looms for the Scottish and UK governments. How difficult you think it will be to find an answer depends largely on how complex a question you think it is in the first place.
To some, the answer seems obvious.
We have figured out that the only way to protect the NHS from overflow and minimize deaths is to follow guidelines on household gatherings and mixing. The idea that we could call a ceasefire with the coronavirus for drinking Baileys in the homes of our extended families seems ludicrous. And where was the outcry over all the other religious holidays that have been changed beyond recognition this year due to restrictions on gatherings?
On the other hand, we know that the restrictions have had a significant impact on the mental health of the nation. Loneliness and isolation, especially among the elderly and vulnerable, are exacerbated during the Christmas season.
And given that we’ve had pub hits, household mixes, and looser restrictions this summer, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the last few months of tighter restrictions should have allowed us to enjoy more freedom. at Christmas.
Start new traditions
If I had to judge the best course of action based on nothing more than my own personal circumstances, I would say we shouldn’t change focus to fit a vacation. While the hustle and bustle of Christmas will be missed, a small scale celebration has its own rewards. After such a hectic year, the idea of doing things a little differently is appealing. I am giving up my usual Christmas schedule, as well as all the obligations that go with it. My daughter and I plan to create new traditions, most of which involve minimal effort and a lot of sugar.
But it’s not just people like me who can stay home without having difficulty doing so that Nicola Sturgeon needs to consider. What about people living in retirement homes, who haven’t seen their loved ones for months? Or the grandparents who fear this Christmas will be their last? Or the key workers who made the country work and who are eagerly awaiting a well-deserved break?
As reasonable as it may be during a pandemic, a balance must be struck. If the rules are deemed too restrictive, a significant number of people will ignore them. This would not only fuel resentment among those who adhere to the rules, it would normalize non-compliance and result in lower compliance for the rest of the winter.
While waiting for a government decision and the evidence from the health officials behind it, it would be pointless to frame our options as a free party for all or the total cancellation of Christmas.
Bah Humbug Boris
Even the most moderate cut to Christmas freedoms is bound to get the headlines of Bah Humbug Boris or Nic Cancels St Nick, but that doesn’t mean politicians should be afraid of the public reaction when making their decision.
Whatever the restrictions at the time, Christmas will continue. No politician has the power to overturn it, even if they wanted to.
I suspect that we will arrive at a solution which involves a limited extension of domestic bubbles. A middle ground that will appeal neither to those who think infection rates should be our only consideration, nor to those who are mobilizing against what they see as government interference in family life.
If no one is completely happy with the strategy, it probably means the government has understood it. Just like there is no perfect Christmas, it seems there is no perfect solution to the coronavirus Christmas problem.
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