Relatives grieving the death of loved ones from Covid-19 have warned families against reuniting for Christmas even if the Government allows it.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested on Friday that families would be able to spend “that cherished Christmas with your family as much as possible”, but added that social distancing would still be required between households.
But Kathryn de Prudhoe, a psychotherapist from Leeds, lost her father Tony Clay to Covid in April and believes mixing outside support bubbles is not worth the risk.
Mr Clay was 60 and had only mildly raised blood pressure before he caught coronavirus, but died in intensive care after three days in hospital, having suffered a bleed on his brain and heart attack as a result of the virus.
Ms de Prudhoe shared a poignant photo of the last time she saw her father before lockdown. It shows him laughing and playing with her son, 23 days before he died.
“He was a really fit, physically active man … it was a really devastating shock,” Ms de Prudhoe told the PA news agency.
“We have no idea what the virus could do to somebody. I understand people want to get together, it’s been an incredibly difficult year … but at what cost?” she asked.
“I, for one, would forego Christmas with my parents if it meant that we as a family still had a future.”
Ms de Prudhoe is spending Christmas with her partner and two children, aged six and nine, and her mother – who now lives alone so is in a support bubble with her.
Heather Roberts, from Eastcote, London, lost her mother Violet Partington, 78, in April to Covid and described those wishing to “party” at Christmas as “selfish”.
Speaking on her mother’s birthday, the 54-year-old told PA: “We never got to say goodbye. We don’t have her here, none of us want to celebrate.
“I just want to go away but can’t. I feel so trapped and I feel so hurt by all the selfish people that want to party.
“Everyone has to make their choice but I feel that many have not lost anyone so don’t know the heartbreak it leaves behind.
“My sister is in counselling and every day you are reminded of it in the news.
“Think very carefully about what you are doing… I just wouldn’t risk it for the sake of a dinner.”
Ms Roberts suggested families could push back their family gatherings until Easter.
Haci Ali Dogus, 49, a taxi driver from Hackney in London, died with coronavirus in March despite having no underlying health conditions.
His 18-year-old student son Mert Dogus said families should move their Christmas gatherings online.
“It’s definitely not going to be easy, especially for students living on university campus and people who live alone,” Mert told PA.
“But at the end of the day that risk isn’t worth taking… we should stay at home and get together on a video call. It won’t be the same but at least we can take advantage of what we have.”
Charity worker Andy Stevens, from London, said his family also planned to celebrate Christmas apart this year, after the death of his nephew Jamie in March, aged 24.
Mr Stevens, 39, said Jamie had been healthy and a keen cyclist but a heart condition previously unknown to him exacerbated his illness.
“In many ways it would help to be together to collectively grieve and remember Jamie at Christmas, especially as we were not able to be together for his funeral, but we think it is not worth the risk,” he told PA.
“I would suggest that people should follow the guidance, and go beyond that depending on their particular level of risk.
“There are many families with empty seats round the table this year and we don’t want more families to experience that in 2021.”
Ms De Prudhoe is also a campaigner for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, a group of more than 2,000 bereaved families calling for an inquiry into the Government’s management of the pandemic.
The campaigners are calling for £65 million in funding to provide mental health support for the hundreds of thousands of people who are grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of the coronavirus crisis.