How Manitobans are changing their holiday plans amid the pandemic

WINNIPEG — Manitoba health officials are urging people to stay home this holiday season. However, some people are still reluctant to break with tradition.

“We all recognize how hard this is, especially during this upcoming season, but it’s definitely necessary. You can see with (the) strain on our health-care system,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.

With Hanukkah starting this week and Christmas on the horizon, the message from the province is to avoid gathering with people outside your household, which means people will be experiencing a holiday season unlike any other.

“I do have younger nieces and nephews, to see them open up gifts on Zoom is going to be fun, to see it live is a lot better,” said Winnipeg resident Brett Turcotte.

However, some people are holding tight to tradition.

“I live alone so I’m going my daughter’s house,” said Winnipeg resident Darlene Geiger.

“She has four kids and a husband, but they haven’t been anywhere probably in a month.”

Angus Reid and the think tank Cardus surveyed 5,000 Canadians between Nov. 24 and 30. They found 30 per cent of Canadians plan to visit friends and relatives this Christmas, which is down from 81 per cent pre-pandemic.

“That’s probably a number, my guess, that’s a little higher than comfort level for public health officials,” said Shachi Kurl, president of Angus Reid.

The number of Manitobans visiting friends and family is 20 per cent, while five per cent are thinking of travelling outside their community.

When it comes to turning down invitations, psychologist Dr. Toby Rutner said it’s important to be direct, but also compassionate as lockdown fatigue deepens.

“Instead of engaging in some philosophical discussion, to just be able to say, if invited and you’re fearful about going, to be able to say, ‘We appreciate the invitation but really are trying to be very safe this year,’” Rutner said.

The current public health orders are set to expire on Dec. 11. It’s unknown at this point whether they will be extended past that date.

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