ESTHER RANTZEN argues that Covid-19 restrictions should remain

Follow my lead… delay the fun for six months: ESTHER RANTZEN argues that Covid-19 restrictions should remain in place for Christmas to protect our families from the virus

The best gift we can offer our families this Christmas is to refuse to meet them. That’s what I’ve done, and although it wasn’t easy, I believe it’s time for us older people to be brave and firm, and tell our families to stay away.

And if the young argue, just ask them: do you really want to remember this as the Christmas you put Granny at risk?

They know we love and miss them, but let’s prove it by agreeing to put Christmas off for six months.

The doctors and the politicians are in serious conflict, so it’s up to us to decide. The medical advice is unanimous, doctors united in a joint statement by the Health Service Journal and British Medical Journal that to relax the rules at Christmas would be rash and wrong.

These are tricky decisions. The young believe themselves to be immortal, so it’s up to us oldies to take the decision. Is it really such a sacrifice for us? We are lucky; we have a stock of happy memories to draw on. Pictured, Esther Rantzen with her daughter Rebecca

They are clear that if we don’t stay apart over Christmas, we risk catastrophe in the New Year. Don’t we owe it to our healthcare professionals to listen to them, when they are putting their own safety at risk, day in, day out?

On the other hand, our politicians are desperately trying to keep the economy going, especially at a time of year which is crucial for so many, especially in retail and hospitality.

The fact is that, while nobody wants to ‘ban Christmas’, with the current relaxation of the rules – which allow three households to mix – many older people will feel unable to speak out and say they feel unsafe, given the way the virus is spreading and mutating. 

If the rules changed, and restrictions were tightened again, they might feel emboldened to do so – and that might even save their lives.

Boris, the lord of misrule personified, dreads being labelled as a Scrooge who banned Christmas. There are some feisty old folk who agree with him.

Yes, there are powerful arguments in favour of us all coming together. Many older people have been desperately alone and are craving the sight and touch of their loved ones. Yet the counter-arguments should be even more persuasive.

America’s Thanksgiving get-togethers last month have caused a dangerous spike there. If, in the new year, our hospitals, too, overflow with desperately ill older people, who will carry the burden of trying to keep them alive? The doctors who tried to warn us. 

And if they fail, who will be to blame for the surge in deaths? The politicians who were too frightened to ban Christmas? Or the people who wouldn’t be told?

Of course, Christmas traditionally is a time for families to spend time together. Like most, I had made plans to be with my grandchildren, but instead on Christmas Day, I’ve told them we can only meet virtually.

These are tricky decisions. The young believe themselves to be immortal, so it’s up to us oldies to take the decision. Is it really such a sacrifice for us? We are lucky; we have a stock of happy memories to draw on.

Hilarious pantomimes, Christmas mornings spent opening stockings, the challenge of the turkey crammed into the oven. This year, none of this has been possible, but they still glow in our memories.

Why don’t we decide to delay the fun, not extinguish it?

Let’s give ourselves some treats to look forward to. My 80th birthday party should have been in June, but I’ve postponed it for a year.

To be honest, December 25 was never the authentic date of Jesus’s birth: it was picked in the fourth century to coincide with pagan festivals and to lift spirits at the time of the winter solstice, when days are shortest. 

So, bishops and churchmen, this year, why not encourage us to attend virtual, streamed church services? And give us permission to postpone our secular celebrations for six months until the summer solstice.

June 21 is the summer solstice, and as it’s a Monday next year, let the Government declare a bank holiday.

Theatres could inaugurate a season of summer pantomimes. Santa could arrive wearing swimming trunks.

An Aussie Christmas in June? Count me in. 

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