Manitobans brace for lonely Christmas with most at-home visits banned

Rachel Kemp looks forward to spending Christmas with her grandparents every year. At ages 89 and 90, she knows time is precious.

“With them being at that age, it could be potentially, possibly their last Christmas here,” Kent said.

She won’t be seeing her grandparents this year after Manitoba announced Tuesday it was extending its public health order that bans visitors to private residences with few exceptions into the new year.

It was the announcement Kemp’s family has been dreading.

“They’re very lonely and we won’t get to see them at Christmas time. My grandmother phoned last month, and she’s crying because she’s like, ‘This is going to be our last Christmas, there’s no Christmas for us this year.'”

The extended restrictions came as Manitoba’s COVID-19 death toll hit 420 Tuesday — a rate that is the second highest per capita in the country. By comparison, just over a month ago the province was recording its 100th death.

While Manitoba no longer has the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections in the country with Alberta now claiming that figure, over the last week the province still had the second-worst rate of new infections per capita.

Kemp thinks the public health order, which allows people who live alone to have one visitor, could be more relaxed.

“Maybe open it up to have a couple more people because they are allowing people [to] go in Walmart, you can go shopping. We’re still getting access to other people,” she said.

Winnipeggers had mixed thoughts about the extension of the order in interviews with CBC.

Jasmine Alfaro thinks the order is unfair to people who don’t live with relatives.

Margaret and George Dupre celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this past July. (Submitted by Rachel Kemp)

“I think it’s unrealistic. It’s a hard time for everybody, right?” she said. “Hopefully you have roommates that you love, right? Hopefully you’re with family.”

Sophie Hansen lives alone and said she won’t be spending Christmas with any loved ones.

“I have no choice. I’m following the rules,” she said.

Hansen was quick to dismiss concerns from people who are upset they won’t be allowed to see their loved ones.

“I know they’re upset but they’d be the first ones to complain if they got that disease and couldn’t get into a hospital.”

Kemp said she’s going to be sharing her love for her grandparents over the phone on Christmas Day. She’s on the phone almost every day with her grandma.

“And at the end of our conversation, she sings to me that she loves me,” she said.

“It just breaks my heart that we can’t be with them.”

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