OPINION
17/12/2020 11:56 GMT | Updated 17/12/2020 15:26 GMT

No, It's Not 'Too Late' To Cancel Christmas – Just Remember Eid

It wasn't seen as 'inhumane' to cancel households mixing for Eid hours before the celebrations began, writes Mariam Khan.

This year, the extent of the British government’s incompetence has been especially galling. From u-turns galore to a shambolic Brexit negotiation, and now the Christmas reprieve.

Apparently, Covid-19 will just take five days off if we kindly let it know that Christmas has arrived. Oh, wait, that actually isn’t the case, and whether your Christmas is big or small, as Boris Johnson put it, covid doesn’t care – it’s a deadly virus.

Eid, Diwali and Rosh Hashanah were all celebrated in lockdown and yet Johnson, defending his government’s easing of restrictions, said it would be “inhumane” to cancel Christmas.

The disparity of approach towards these religious holidays and Christmas is stark. Why wasn’t it “inhumane” to cancel households mixing for Eid hours just before the celebrations began?

Johnson continued: “It would not be right to criminalise those who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones.”

Where was this thought process when all the other religious holidays happened? It’s like the government wants to encourage religious animosity through the disparity of treatment towards different groups.

And while we all bicker among ourselves about Christmas being allowed to happen or not, and the fairness of other religious holidays being celebrated in isolation, the government can continue its rampage of incompetence unchallenged by the public. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, the national response was inspiring and why wouldn’t it be? This country has weathered storms before. People were there for one another – we helped our communities, made masks by the shed load, clapped for our key workers, looked after those who were isolating and helped our neighbours.

So ask yourself – what price are you willing to pay for five days of festivities?

A snap YouGov poll in September showed that 78% of British people supported lockdown restrictions, including closing pubs, bars and restaurants at 10pm and limiting indoor sports activities, as well as asking people to work from home. Almost half of Brits even believed the measures didn’t go far enough.

And so I refuse to allow the government to frame household mixing as the only option, and place the responsibility for covid on the public just so the government can say the public didn’t listen come January when infection rates inevitably explode. 

The public has been listening from the very beginning. We’ve done our part, despite the convoluted messaging from the government.

The lack of leadership or responsibility from those in government has cost hundreds of lives during this pandemic, and if that isn’t a damning indictment of the failure of this government, yesterday it was announced that for the first time in 70 years, UNICEF will be feeding hungry children in the UK affected by the covid crisis.

What exactly is the British government doing other than lining the pockets of its rich friends and the private sector? If we want to recover from this pandemic we need actual, genuine leadership. 

So this is my plea. There is still time to cancel the Christmas easing of restrictions – it’s really not too late. It is the most ethical and human option.

Johnson must give up his obsession with playing into the politics of likability and lead this country out of this pandemic by making some difficult decisions because that is what leaders do. Or rather, that is what leaders are supposed to do.

If in September the public agreed to restrictions and almost half of the public agreed that the measures weren’t strong enough, then who exactly is benefitting from the publicity parade of household mixing for Christmas other than Johnson?

Cancelling Christmas will be hard, yes, it will be difficult to have a Christmas separated from family and loved ones. But the government must take responsibility instead of normalising 500 deaths a day. These aren’t just numbers these are people; aunties, uncles, grandparents, sons and daughters now gone. 

Allowing the mixing of households is sending people to their deaths, it’s disrespecting all those who weren’t able to be by loved ones sides this year in their final moments, and it shows a complete disregard for the strain this will cause to our already overburdened NHS.

Our key workers have been overworked and underpaid for too long. A Christmas reprieve will send us hurtling into another lockdown in the new year, which will have a lasting effect on our already struggling economy. 

I’m tired of covid. I want my life back, just like you. This has been a year of sacrifice for all of us. But now, as we see hope on the horizon for the first time with the vaccine rollout, celebrating Christmas would be akin to throwing all our efforts to the curb. So ask yourself – what price are you willing to pay for five days of festivities?

Mariam Khan is a freelance writer and editor of It’s Not About the Burqa.