Yesterday Lib Dem Leader, Ed Davey, and the Leaders of the Welsh and Scottish Liberal Democrats and Naomi Long the Leader of our sister party, Alliance in Northern Ireland, made a joint declaration about Christmas preparations. They challenged the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland Wales to agree a common UK plan for how to deal with Christmas. They also made clear that this needed to be done very quickly and not in the last week before the BIG DAY! They were absolutely right to do so and I supported them when questioned by local media.
Christmas is, above all, the time when there is a mass of people moving around within the Country. Unlike the Summer holidays when more people travel but over a longer period of time huge numbers of people ‘go home’ for Christmas in a very short space of time. 500,000 students move around; people come home to their Mum and Dads house if they work away. Countless people are despatched to fetch Grandpa and Great-Aunt Mary to stay for the turkey and trimmings.
Normally you can see this movement if you are anywhere near Lime Street Station or Liverpool Airport. What a coming and going there is with a mass of people standing on trains; carrying wrapped parcels or getting drunk and maudlin at the pub and solemnly declaring with a tear in the eye, “It’s all for the kids isn’t it?”
A lot of this travel is within the Country where currently so many different rules apply. If you are a student in a Tier 4 area in Scotland can you get home to a top tier area in North Wales via a tier 3 area in Liverpool? If you live in an area where you are not allowed to have people outside your bubble in your house can you have lunch in a home in an area where the rule of 6 still applies?
It’s important that people think now and not with a week to go about what preparations they are going to make. Arrangements for the big day with all its traditions are usually well in hand by now. Christmas cakes are getting cooked; presents bought; cards are being written; calculations are being made about how to squeeze 16 round a table built for 6; hotels and restaurants are being booked for Christmas lunches. None of this applies to me I must confess. I’m more a “bloody hell it’s the 23rd December where can I get a present for Erica” sort of chap myself.
I don’t have to be a virologist, an epidemiologist or a public health expert to tell you that Christmas is not going to be like that this year and frankly, irrespective of the virus may never be like that again. I believe that whatever tier you are in Liverpool, Scotland or anywhere else the common sense approach must be to plan for the worst option but hope for the best.
The most telling reasons for recent upsurges in Covid-19 in Liverpool and throughout the World are caused by:
- Too many people getting together inside areas where there is too close a contact with others and with too little ventilation.
- People thinking that they are safe in paces where they are accustomed to meeting others which means not only pubs and entertainment places but also churches.
- Intergenerational mixing inside people’s houses.
In the three preceding sentences I have just described what Christmas means to so many people. Families getting together and mixing in venues both religious and secular.
Nothing will change in the UK between now and Christmas which will dramatically improve things. If anything, things are going to get worse before they get better. In most parts of the Country the rate of infections; hospitalisations are death are continuing to rise. Infections in Liverpool and a handful of other places is coming down but from such a high that it is highly unlikely that we will be a Tier one area by Christmas. That is why we all need to plan accordingly to keep safe. The last thing that you want to do is be the source of a super spreading event the effects will be first noted when your friends and relatives fall ill and they in turn infect their friends and acquaintances.
So, I think that we all should:
- Assume that we will be spending the Christmas period in the same family group or bubble that you live with for the rest of the year.
- Think though our food requirements and then think about getting some food treats like a Christmas cake baked now and despatched to provide Christmas cheer to those who might be by themselves.
- Think through how we can remotely cheer up and have a good contact with those who would normally be with you. Can they play the games and enjoy the entertainments remotely by Zoom or Facetime that they would normally enjoy with you if you organise things a bit differently?
- Have we bought your presents yet? Please don’t just think about the big companies but buy some things locally and get them in the post as soon as possible with the firm instructions on, “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 25th DECEMBER”
- If you want to go to a restaurant for a change start booking now because there will be a lot of pressure on licensees nearer the time to get people in but to do so safely.
- Give gifts to food banks and toy appeals early because they will need a more complicated delivery mechanism this year.
It gives me no pleasure to say these things. We have our own Christmas traditions which will have to go by the board this year. Our daughter and family will not be coming from Scotland this year. We won’t all go over to Wallasey to see our other daughter and grandchildren. I won’t see much of our son and his wife apart from dropping presents around the corner and perhaps some door step conversations.
But this must be done. If we don’t work together over Christmas, we know that the hospitals will fill in mid-January and that the morgues will fill up by the end of January. Covid-19 won’t be taking time off for Christmas. We must not let our guard down if we are to get through Winter to what might be a much more promising Spring.