‘Everything Is On Hold’: How Coronavirus Turned Our Lives Upside Down

From weddings and graduations to house moves and funerals, the Covid-19 outbreak is transforming key moments in our lives.

In a matter of just weeks, coronavirus has left the lives of people up and down the UK looking drastically different.

While scores of elderly people, pregnant women and those with medical conditions are preparing to distance themselves for the next few months, thousands have decamped to work from home, and schools are closing their doors from Friday.

But for some, it isn’t just daily commutes and bottomless brunches that have been disrupted. Major milestones in life have been turned upside down, too.

From weddings and graduations to house moves and funerals, this is what Brits’ rites of passage look like in a coronavirus-hit world.

The Move Abroad

Carlos Rebelo and his dog Prince
Carlos Rebelo and his dog Prince

Carlos Rebelo and his young family were meant to be moving to Brussels in May. But the coronavirus outbreak has separated him from his wife and son and left his life “on hold”.

With so much to do before their relocation to Belgium, Carlos – who is a vet – had decided to send his toddler son to stay with his parents in Portugal.

As flights to the country began to be cancelled because of the disease, Carlos’ wife and son made the trip while he remained in the UK. Since then, Portugal has implemented rules which mean everyone entering the country from the UK must self-isolate for two weeks.

“We’re not sure when – or if – my wife will be allowed to come back,” Carlos said.

“Meanwhile, we have tonnes of furniture to sell, as well as our car, and our new landlords in Brussels are demanding official documents and a deposit, which we cannot provide at this moment.”

To make matters worse, with the couple’s original plans being to move gradually to Brussels, they will be paying rent on two properties from April.

“We are unable to get a bank account in Belgium if we’re not registered there, and we can’t register because their register services are interrupted,” Carlos said.

“We are trying to delay the move, but there are already new tenants moving into our flat in the UK in May, so we need to leave by then.”

“Our whole life is on hold. The separation just makes it worse. What worries me is that we both know enough about epidemiology to understand how dire the situation in the UK will get in the upcoming weeks.

“We’re afraid we will lose a lot of our savings and not be allowed to travel to other countries.”

The Wedding

Phil Crooks had planned to marry his fiancée Emma on May 30
Phil Crooks had planned to marry his fiancée Emma on May 30
Prakasit Khuansuwan / EyeEm via Getty Images

It’s not just Carlos’s plans for the coming months that are up in the air. Phil Crooks – a shop worker and union representative – was due to marry his fiancée Emma on May 30.

The couple had been planning their big day for 18 months and had invited about 80 people.

“We are still waiting for all our RSVPs, but we’re not expecting them all to come,” Phil said. “My cousin already declined at the start of the pandemic, which is fair enough as she and her husband have young children.

“My brother lives in Toronto and we had already told him we would understand if he couldn’t be there – even before the Canadian government imposed the new travel restrictions.”

At the moment, the pair are hoping to go ahead with the wedding as planned – but the uncertainty is taking its toll.

“We’re in limbo,” Phil said. “We are already stressed out about finding the money to pay for it all and all the work it’s taken to pull it together for the date. Now it might not happen at all.

“We already wanted to get over the line and start married life. But at this point, we just want our lives back from this thing.”

The Honeymoon

Ruth Barrett and her husband Jordan were supposed to be going on honeymoon to the Maldives on Saturday
Ruth Barrett and her husband Jordan were supposed to be going on honeymoon to the Maldives on Saturday
Nigel Playle

With their wedding on March 6, Ruth Barrett and her husband Jordan were able to tie the knot before coronavirus drastically hit life in Britain.

But they found out on Tuesday that their honeymoon to the Maldives – which was supposed to begin on Saturday – had officially been cancelled.

“It was incredibly stressful as Tui were telling us we could go and if they say that, you can’t get the money back,” Ruth, who is a PR manager, said. “But after the announcement yesterday, they finally let us cancel it.”

The couple had thought about booking a break in the UK. “But it’s too risky,” the 32-year-old said. “We’re both back at work instead and pitching in to see how we can help.

“As cheesy as it sounds, aside from having supplies in the house, the most important things aren’t material.

“This isn’t the start to marriage we envisioned, but we’re not ones to pass up a challenge. So many people have it worse right now and those are the people we should be helping.”

Celebrating A Birthday

Carrie Rose was supposed to go to Dublin for her birthday
Carrie Rose was supposed to go to Dublin for her birthday

For 27-year-old Carrie Rose, the start of the government’s clampdown on socialising and going out to work coincided with her birthday on Tuesday, which was also St Patrick’s Day.

She had planned to go to Dublin to celebrate with her friends. But instead, she worked from home alone.

“I woke up that morning and cried,” she said. “I’m panicking at the situation anyway but the isolation and loneliness is horrible.

“It’s a day when I’m normally surrounded by people, but I was alone. I tried to remind myself that there’s worse things going on than being alone on my birthday – but I live alone too so it makes it worse.”

She added: “I went and panic-bought wine and gin. If I’m being locked in, I’m being locked-in drunk.”

But three of her colleagues surprised her by turning up at her house with a birthday cake and balloons.

“When they came, it felt like a moment of care and support,” Carrie said. “A selfless act.

“You could tell they were cautious but they put that to the side for an hour to have cake and a wine with me. It felt amazing. I got emotional.

The PhD Celebration

Amanda McDonald Ramsay
Amanda McDonald Ramsay

For the past six years, Amanda McDonald Ramsay has been working on her PhD thesis in politics and law.

With her deadline looming in less than two weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has added even more stress to the situation.

“I had to devote loads of time to researching the coronavirus situation to stay safe,” said Amanda, a student at the University of Bristol.

“I had to gather compelling evidence to launch an intensive lobbying campaign to persuade my parents – who are 76 and 78 – to cocoon. My dad is in one of the highest risk groups at nearly 80 and he has had pneumonia before.”

Meanwhile, she has asked her sister to buy her food and supplies so she doesn’t have to leave the house and chance getting sick before her deadline.

But it’s not just writing her thesis that has changed because of Covid-19 – her plans to celebrate have also dramatically altered.

“I am mindful of having too much alcohol because I want to keep my immune system strong,” she said. “But I will probably book in individual FaceTime slots with my best friends and have a glass with them.”

After that, she plans to mark the moment by getting out into the community and helping those who are struggling because of the outbreak.

“I am joining up with a local greengrocer to deliver shopping to those who are self isolating or vulnerable in some way,” Amanda explained. “I organised that with him just this morning.”

The Funeral

For others, coronavirus has had an impact on far less happy occasions. Ash Percival, an entertainment reporter at HuffPost UK, is due to attend his 94-year-old grandma’s funeral on Friday.

“At present, things are still going ahead – but we have had a lot of people saying they now won’t be coming,” he said.

“A lot of elderly people are obviously staying away and we’ve got a few extended family members who have underlying health conditions who are choosing to stay away too.

“My grandma’s niece was meant to be coming from up north, but she’s just finished chemotherapy so isn’t coming.”

The funeral is now set to be attended by six direct family members and five other people.

“We’ve also been told as part of Covid-19 measures that we will not be allowed to touch the coffin and will have to remain behind the curtain at all times,” Ash said.

“It’s sad that people won’t be there, but as a family we completely understand why some will not be coming – although we have had a few over-70s who are absolutely insisting on being there to say goodbye.”