LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A Scottish bishop is calling for a 24-hour lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and celebrations on Christmas Day, calling it a “circuit breaker” in the pandemic.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley said this would be “a break in the war on COVID, just like the pause in the first world war on the Western Front in 1914, when the British and German troops laid down their guns and met in no man’s land to celebrate Christmas.”
“Couldn’t we allow for one day of normality in the midst of our relentless war against the virus? Think of the hope and happiness that would give. A moment of joy in the midst of so much despair. Great care would have to be taken, especially in relation to the elderly and the vulnerable. They would be at risk and caution would be essential, but what about the risks of emptiness, loneliness and hopelessness at what should be the happiest time of year? The effects of a depressed and isolated Christmas could be devastating for many, leaving an emotional and social legacy that no vaccine could cure,” the bishop wrote.
Keenan’s column was in response to Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch’s warning that Scots should “get their digital Christmas ready” after a rise in COVID-19 coronavirus cases.
“I’m hopeful costs now may get us a more family Christmas. But Christmas is not going to be normal, there’s absolutely no question about that,” Leitch told the BBC. “We are not going to be in large family groupings, with multiple families coming round – that is fiction for this year.”
On Nov. 2, Scotland will implement a new five-tier system of alert levels for COVID-19 restrictions, and the government is warning “even tougher restrictions” could be on the horizon.
However, Keenan warned that the government’s desire to not “build up false hope” could end up “destroying all hope.”
“No one wants a digital Christmas. Squashing false expectations is one thing, but no one wants to dampen people’s hopes,” the bishop wrote.
“Hope is perhaps the most precious commodity we possess. Without it we will fail to combat this pandemic, we will fail to care for ourselves and for others and we will fail to build a future for the next generation growing up in the midst of fear. We must be very careful that we do not extinguish hope, the consequences of that would be devastating,” Keenan explained.
“Flattening the curve of infection rates has been a laudable goal of government policy this year. Rather than flatten the curve of hope, let’s lift our spirits with the prospect of a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” the bishop said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome