With the holiday season just around the corner, people all over the world are eagerly waiting to understand how COVID will be affecting their celebrations .Under normal circumstances, traveling abroad, big family dinners, bustling markets, and packed parties would all be on the cards. However, this coronavirus has changed all that, and with many countries under lockdown, what will be possible remains a mystery. Fortunately, many governments understand the importance of the holidays and are actively trying to make them possible to celebrate--at least to some extent.
The holidays play a major role in many government’s recent decisions on lockdowns and COVID restrictions for two main reasons: Country morale and economic impact.
For many people, the holiday season is a joyous time to unite with family and friends. Understandably, this time is incredibly dear to many and holds a significant social importance for them. The holidays strongly impact the morale of the population, and in a time where many lockdowns and restrictions are making people increasingly frustrated with their governments, most decision makers want to placate them as much as possible.
Moreover, the holiday season also means a financial boost for many businesses as celebrators buy presents and decorations en masse. Just last year, retail sales surpassed 1 trillion USD over Christmas. During the uncertain and difficult climate of COVID for many retailers, holiday sales could be a lifeline that many of them need to survive.
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, many countries have entered a second lockdown. This can be attributed partially to the rising number of COVID infections, but also to the desire of achieving some sort of normalisation before the holiday season.
Across Europe, for instance, countries have gone into lockdown for the month of November, while planning to ease the lockdown throughout the beginning of December.
France and Germany, for example, have instituted lockdowns with the hopes that come December, daily infections will drop and allow the government to let families congregate during Christmas.
The United Kingdom, has recently announced that for a period of 5 days over Christmas, three households will be allowed to mix (which is currently prohibited all together) in order to celebrate with family. Furthermore, in a bid to get everyone home in time, they have opened up a 6-day window for all University students to travel home so that they may quarantine in time to spend Christmas eve with their families. In further support of this program, the government is providing free COVID tests to all students before they leave their student accommodation to ensure that the travel home is done safely, without risking further infections during travel.
Canada has already seen how loosening restrictions during holidays can negatively impact infection trends across the country. During Thanksgiving in October, COVID restrictions were minimal across the country. Due to holiday gatherings, Canada saw a spike in cases, which subsequently saw them impose more harsh restrictions, bringing later holidays into question. Still, many across the country are optimistic that new restrictions will be enough to bring numbers down in time to allow people across the country to celebrate Christmas with their families.
Mounting COVID numbers had caused Israel to enter a second lockdown in late September. While numbers have significantly dropped since, there are still significant restrictions in place. In the past, Israel has favored holiday-time lockdowns as opposed to easing restrictions for the holidays--and this Hanukkah might not be any different. While the lower numbers hint that further loosening of restrictions might take place before December 10th, it’s still unclear what the government’s plan is.
While it’s clear that the holidays will be very different to previous years, due to both social and economic pressure it’s in the government’s best interest to try to make the holidays as close to normal as possible. Countries are taking measures like lockdowns and mass testing in order to prepare the population for a window of time where people can meet with loved ones and escape the harsh realities of COVID for a limited amount of time.
Happy & safe holidays!