It’s going to be a different Christmas this year, that’s for sure. With the coronavirus pandemic worsening and restriction after restriction are implemented non-stop, we can’t help but ask: is it still a season to be jolly?
All countries around the world continue to implement strict travel bans. And though some have reopened their borders for international travelers, weeks-long quarantines and tests are still mandated. Most parts of the world are still not allowing any entry to their ports; and schedules of reopening keep changing. Not to mention that large gatherings and parties – which are supposedly dominating the world right now as we all wait for the clock to strike 12 for Christmas – are basically impossible to hold.
No travels, no parties, no family reunions – Christmas 2020 seems to have been forced to adapt to the new normal as well.
Here are some of the latest updates around the world just hours before Christmas time.
Travel ban against the UK
Several countries have already issued travel bans and warnings against the UK after a more transmissible strain of coronavirus was detected. Those who have already booked tickets and were excited to travel for the first time in months are now left in chaos – not knowing whether they should cancel their plans all together or hope that UK can soon solve the problem.
On Wednesday, however, a new and potentially more infectious variant has been found in cases linked to South Africa. The government said the new variant is highly concerning and immediate restrictions were further imposed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson already urged British people to cut off Christmas shopping, cancel family reunions and maintain small celebrations at the confines of their homes. The prime minister said that this year’s sacrifice of not being with loved ones would mean that “we have better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases”.
Worst outbreak in Thailand
Thailand is currently battling its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic started. After a case was detected in a seafood market near the capital Bangkok, the number of infections has risen to more than 1,300, majority are migrant workers from Myanmar. The Thai government has urged calm among panicking residents as new cases have now been detected in 27 provinces. Before the outbreak, Thailand was already getting ready to accept international travelers through its Special Tourist Visa. Many travelers expressed interest in getting the 90-day visa, and celebrate Christmas 2020 and the New Year in the Land of Smiles. But alas, the outbreak happened. Schools near the border of Samut Sakhon and the seafood market itself has already been closed by authorities, and mass testing is being done.
Taiwan cancels New Year celebration
Taiwanese people have been looking forward to one of its most beautiful and meaningful celebrations as they eagerly bid farewell to a troubled year. But just today, Taiwan’s tourism department cancelled the annual New Year celebration, which will see people gather at the coastal town of Fulong to watch the first sunrise of the year. The decision comes after a report of the first locally transmitted coronavirus case since April 12. While fireworks display will still take place in Taipei, everyone is mandated to wear face masks and practice social distancing. For many, not going outside would be a much better and more convenient idea.
Growing cases in the Philippines
Many say that there is no Christmas like the Christmas in the Philippines, with grand traditions start as early as September. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic is crimping yuletide traditions. President Rodrigo Duterte has called for Filipinos to downscale celebrations as cases continue to rise. Daily tally in the country has not gone down below 1,000 despite community quarantines in place since April. As of December 24, the country already has 464,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths. Though the pandemic has not fully dampened the holiday spirit, caroling, firecrackers, fireworks and large and loud noche buenas will not be allowed this year – basically rendering a “silent night” for a usually reverberating and vibrant Philippine Christmas.
But even with all these restrictions and safety protocols implemented by different governments and health authorities around the globe, the Christmas spirit remains alive. People are doing whatever they can to spread the holiday cheer, at least virtually. Many families are now preparing for their Zoom calls to greet loved ones and extended families from distant places tonight.
There are several reasons to be grumpy for Christmas 2020. But if we come to think of it, not being with families and friends for this one celebration means we can keep them safe and well. And that is the most beautiful gift we can give to each other this year.