The COVID-19 pandemic has already stripped away many of our hopes for 2020, and now even the dream of a quiet family gathering over the holidays is flickering out like the lights on a well-used Christmas tree.
B.C.’s top doctor banned many traditional Christmas activities last week as she extended COVID-19 restrictions on events and gatherings through the new year.
“We are not yet through this storm,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Recent COVID-19 measures, which prohibit gatherings and events as well as meeting up with people outside of your immediate household, are now extended until midnight on Jan. 8. However, some drive-thru and drop-off events with COVID safety plans will now be allowed with up to 50 people who must stay inside their vehicles. Schools and most businesses, including gyms, will remain open.
The extended measures mean there will be no multi-household Christmas dinners, Hanukkah celebrations or New Year’s Eve gatherings. People who live alone may form a bubble with another unit, but all others are being asked to stick to their immediate household.
“This year, ‘home for the holidays’ means staying home for the holidays,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
And the inability to celebrate the holiday with family could heighten the stress and anxiety that many experience at this time of year.
“These next couple of months are going to probably be the hardest,” Island Health chief medical officer Richard Stanwick said last month. “It’s going to be that slogging through and mentally trying to tough it out.”
Calls to B.C.’s crisis lines have spiked 27 per cent since the pandemic began, with the number of people reporting poor mental health tripling compared to pre-pandemic times. The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year, with many callers saying they feel anxious and depressed.
“Now we’re heading into more indoor time, more people who are affected by a lack of light. And then of course on top of that, a holiday season in which we’re probably not going to be able to celebrate in the way that we’re used to,” Stanwick said.
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