Turkey dinners and cancelled plans: Canadians weigh danger of COVID-19 over holidays

Christmas Day for many Canadians this year means fewer people gathered around a twinkling tree tearing open presents, but others say COVID-19 hasn’t changed their holiday plans.

Const. Ryan Bell in Yarmouth, N.S., is working his first Christmas shift.

His own holiday plans involve calling family and friends back home in Ontario.

Bell’s shift on Christmas morning, he said has been quiet in the small southwestern Nova Scotia town. He and other officers are helping out at the Royal Canadian Legion in Yarmouth to distribute food and gifts to members.

“Driving around on the roads here in town, we haven’t seen many vehicles,” Bell said.

“With the pandemic, I think a lot of people are staying home, sticking with their families and enjoying Christmas.”

At Saint Gabriel’s Parish in Toronto, lit up Christmas trees and poinsettias were displayed ahead of a small in-person mass service on Saturday.

A pianist played Christmas tunes that filled the church. Green markers signalled where churchgoers could sit among the pews, physically distanced, while celebrating the meaning of Christmas.

Several provinces have been reporting record-high daily infection counts and health officials have urged people to cut back on gatherings.

They say the fast-spreading Omicron variant is driving the spike.

Quebec reported a new record of just over 10,000 cases on Christmas Eve, and Ontario broke its highest count with nearly 9,571.

British Columbia announced a new high of 2,144 infections and Manitoba broke its record with 742.

Nunavut, with eight infections in several communities, ordered a full lockdown in the territory.

Patricia MacDowell says she wasn’t worried about hosting a Christmas Eve turkey dinner family at her home in Montreal.

MacDowell is unvaccinated and was hosting three vaccinated relatives. But she said she doesn’t worry because she’s in good health.

“Literally, last Christmas, we kept all the blinds closed because we didn’t want anyone to see that we were eating dinner because we weren’t allowed,” she said.

“At least now we’ll be able to leave the curtains open while we eat. We won’t feel like we’re criminals.”

Quebec is allowing groups of 10 to gather for Christmas, but come Boxing Day, gathering sizes will be reduced to six people or two family bubbles. Bars, movie theatres and gyms were ordered closed earlier in the week.

Toronto-based Dr. Naheed Dosani said it’s his duty as a front-line worker to forgo another year of celebrating with family and friends to protect community health.

“We have come so far and sacrificed so much that, at this time, a decision to put a hold on holiday get-together plans is the right thing to do.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 25, 2021.

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