Christmas Eve is a month away but celebrations will look a lot different this year.
“Christmas is not going to be having any kind of large group interactions for sure,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
As COVID-19 cases soar and regions lockdown, Canada’s top doctor has a blunt message when it comes to holiday planning.
“Even with family, you’ve got to really think twice,” says Tam. “Avoid non-essential travel. Keep to your current household contacts as much as possible.”
That has thousands of University of Victoria students struggling with what to do.
“I feel nervous but I also really want to see my family but with stuff like the masks and with all sanitizing it makes me feel a lot safer,” says Cassidy Lancaster, who plans to travel home to Alberta for winter break.
“I prefer to be with my family at least for Christmas but this year because of the pandemic I don’t think it’s going to happen,” adds Iranian student Reza Zamani, who plans to stay in Victoria.
Of the 750 students in residence at UVic, the university says only around 65 have applied to stay here for the winter break — which officials say is about the same as last year.
But all the uncertainty is taking a toll.
“This is the first year students have had to be so vigilant, constantly re-evaluating their plans,” says Emily Lowan of the University of Victoria Students’ Society. “It’s a really stressful time on top of being isolated and having a heavy workload.”
Students travelling home is considered essential travel but for everyone else the message is clear — stay home and celebrate with your household.
It’s a message that doesn’t seem to be resonating south of the border, were millions of Americans are travelling for U.S. Thanksgiving — despite repeated warnings not to.
“I keep urging people, please don’t travel,” says New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “Please change your plans.”