Omicron variant shatters hopes of a Christmas return – .

Omicron variant shatters hopes of a Christmas return – .

Megan Scheffers waited until July to celebrate Christmas with her children after the COVID-19 pandemic tore them apart last winter, but says decorating candy log cabins just wasn’t the same in the heart of summer.

She was hoping to make up for lost traditions this year when two of her three children booked tickets in mid-December to travel to Nova Scotia from the Netherlands, where they live with their father.

But as the Omicron variant of the new coronavirus threatens to turn the holiday season upside down, Scheffers said she worries her 12 and nine-year-old children will not make it to Halifax to open their gifts.

“All of the decorations are still wrapped up, because I wanted to take them out when they arrived so we could do it together,” Scheffers said.

“Last year I didn’t even plant a tree. Is this going to be the second year without a tree… and without my children? “

Scheffers is among many Canadians whose holiday plans are on the line, as growing anxiety over the Omicron variant dampens enthusiasm for a vaccine-protected Christmas merriment return.

Nazeem Muhajarine, professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said winter festivities may need to be curtailed as Omicron fuels concerns about the safety of travel and vacation gatherings.

But with so much still unknown about the virus mutation, Muhajarine said there was still hope to save the holiday spirit, encouraging revelers to see how the situation unfolded before they ditch their celebrations. .

“I think it’s safe to take a more careful and measured approach,” he said. “But wait and take a closer look on Christmas Day or New Years Day before you finalize these plans. “

Some scientists have suggested that Omicron may be more contagious than other strains of the virus, but Muhajarine said it could take weeks to determine the implications of the new variant, including whether it causes serious illness and whether it can overcome it. immunity provided by vaccination or infection.

He added that although Omicron has been linked to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in South Africa, it is too early to predict how the variant will spread in Canada, which has a much higher vaccination rate.

What is clear is that the uncertainty could lead to complications for those considering vacationing abroad now that Canada and a host of other countries have tightened border measures in response to the spread of the variant, Muhajarine said, warning international travelers risk getting entangled in the tests. and quarantine requirements to reach their destination.

Visiting family and friends in Canada is a safer bet, he said, but suggested that visitors undergo rapid antigen testing before arriving and after leaving as an added precaution.

Muhajarine said hosts should also be prepared to revamp their Christmas dinner tables as provinces roll out their COVID-19 policies for the holiday season.

New Brunswick entered the first phase of its so-called winter action plan on Sunday, which allows domestic gatherings inside of up to 20 people, but the province has advised against inviting people who have chosen not to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, officials in Ontario have indicated they intend to stick to their 25-person limit for indoor meetings. Quebec is expected to release its recommendations for the holidays this week, but Premier François Legault has indicated he hopes to increase indoor gathering limits to 20 or 25 people, down from 10 currently.

For her part, Muhajarine endorsed even more intimate celebrations with single-digit guest lists and making full vaccination a condition of attendance, to reduce the risk of making this Christmas a last for a loved one.

“This is how we can have a safe and smart Christmas this year, and I hope next year will be different. “

If this sentiment sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because it echoes a common refrain among public health officials who, for nearly two years, have pleaded with Canadians to make short-term sacrifices in service. of a better future.

Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, fears that the emergence of the Omicron variant just in time for the holidays could mark a turning point in people’s patience for such promises, turning pandemic fatigue into “depression”. “.

“We thought we were finally going to have the chance to have a Christmas. If that is taken away from us, I think it’s a little more insult to the injury, ”said Joordens.

“I think we’re starting to get a hint of these depressive feelings that nothing we can do really changes anything, and it’s a scary road to take. “

Alexandra Martino, a 29-year-old social media manager in London, said she was determined to maintain her zest for life as she prepared to cross the pond to see her family in Toronto for the first time since Christmas latest. This despite the fact that there is a chance that Omicron will usher in a new wave of vacation disruption in the week leading up to its flight.

“I just have to stay positive and upbeat, and keep thinking, ‘I’m totally going home. I go totally home, “until something pops up and says,” Actually, you can’t. “”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 5, 2021.


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