Montrealers try to keep spirits up as new COVID-19 measures derail holiday plans

·3 min read
Alexandra Papazoglou says her family had to postpone their trip to Florida this holiday season.  (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Alexandra Papazoglou says her family had to postpone their trip to Florida this holiday season. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

The holidays are just around the corner and Montrealers are itching for some much-needed cheer. But new COVID-19 restrictions and soaring case counts driven by the Omicron variant are putting a damper on many of their holiday plans.

Grade 7 student Ryan Malaj was expecting to spend Christmas with his extended family in Panama, but that plan is now up in the air.

"Of course because of COVID, the chance has diminished a lot," he said.

Malaj said his family is still debating whether or not to travel amid the risky COVID-19 situation. He said he's remaining hopeful, but preparing for the worst.

"I'm feeling kind of sad because well yeah, Christmas is about gifts, but it's also about staying together with your family and with your friends and not being able to do that kind of defeats the purpose of Christmas," he said.

Like Malaj, Alexandra Papazoglou's plans have been shaken due to not only the Omicron variant — which accounts for 90 per cent of Montreal's new cases — but the ever-changing public health measures in the province, too.

On Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced new restrictions to fight the highly transmissible variant and limit hospital admissions.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

For Christmas, people are allowed to gather in groups of 10. But as of Dec. 26, indoor gatherings in the province will be limited to six people or two family bubbles.

Papazoglou was planning on spending Christmas with her entire family, but as the situation worsened and new restrictions were implemented, she decided to see only her immediate family and her parents.

"And even now, we're a little worried about that," she said.

Still, her family has plans to travel to Florida next week.

"We got to get out of here," Papazoglou said. "If there's a lockdown, I don't think we can psychologically handle one."

She says if she and her family manage to avoid catching COVID-19 at Christmas, she'll definitely be travelling south despite the federal government warning people against travelling abroad.

"I feel like if I'm in the sun, I actually have less of a chance of getting [COVID-19] cause we will be outside all the time, we won't be tempted to see people indoors and we will just go beach, condo, beach, condo, repeat."

Willing to compromise

Though most Montrealers are disappointed to have to cancel a second Christmas, many say they are willing to do it in order to put safety first.

"We were all pretty excited about it because things were looking like they were going well with the vaccinations and everything, then we get this," said Jaleel Webb, who usually has a large gathering with his family.

But, because many of his family members are older, he said they had to prioritize their health.

"It's tough news," he said.

Others, like Brianna Miller, will still gather but in smaller numbers with everyone taking a rapid antigen test first, "just in case."

"I think the best way of living with what is our reality now is just being cognizant of the people we're seeing and to control what we can control," she said.

It's especially important to check up on those whose families live far away or who are alone this holiday season, said Miller.

"We're going to adapt because that's what we need to do to keep everyone safe," she said.

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