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Families across Kent react to Prime Minister cancelling Christmas under Tier 4 restrictions


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People across the county were blindsided on Saturday when Boris Johnson cancelled Christmas for millions of families in the south east.

Under Tier 4 restrictions households will not be allowed to mix, taking away the brief opportunity for familial respite in an otherwise incredibly tough year.

Christmas is going to be very different this year. Picture: iStock/Volkan Sezai
Christmas is going to be very different this year. Picture: iStock/Volkan Sezai

Shirley Turner, of The Fairway, Dymchurch, was looking forward to spending Christmas with her daughter and four children who live in Ramsgate.

The 61-year-old's daughter suffers with poor mental health, and Shirley had hoped the festive period would offer a bit of time for her to relax and de-stress.

But after the shock announcement on Saturday, Shirley was beside herself.

She said: "It's tearing our family apart, and I know I'm not alone there.

"Boris Johnson himself had said that it wouldn't be taken away from us, because to do so would be inhuman.

Shirley wanted to be able to see her daughter and grandchildren this Christmas
Shirley wanted to be able to see her daughter and grandchildren this Christmas

"I think this is the thing that has really upset me and other people, because we thought this would keep us going until we can go back to normal again."

The announcement came just days after the Prime Minister mocked Labour leader Keir Starmer for calling for a tightening of measures over the festive period, suggesting he wanted to 'cancel Christmas.'

The swift change in Christmas rules has been blamed on the new strain of Covid-19 which was reportedly discovered in Kent, and is believed to spread much faster than the initial strain.

Shirley believes that if a decision to restrict Christmas contact was announced earlier it would have been a lot easier for people to deal with.

She said: "I would still have been upset and hurt, but I don't think it would have been quite the bulldozer that it has.

The Prime Minister announced Tier 4 measures on Saturday. Picture: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
The Prime Minister announced Tier 4 measures on Saturday. Picture: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

"With less than a week to go, people had made plans - I think the way it's been done is extremely cruel for people."

Hours after Saturday's announcement London's train stations were teeming with people rushing out of the capital before the restrictions came into place.

This was despite the government's chief medical officer Chris Whitty telling people to unpack their bags if they were thinking of travelling before the restrictions came into force at midnight.

Hannah Foster was busy packing her bags to drive to her family home in Walderslade, when she started getting calls and messages from friends asking what she was going to do.

The 23-year-old teacher said: "My mum is in a wreck over not being able to have her children with her - my brother lives in Gibraltar and was due to fly home on the 23rd but now he can't.

"We've never not spent Christmas as a family, so it was a huge hit."

Hannah's parents are high-risk and have been shielding since the pandemic began, so she knew she could not risk driving home to see them.

She said: "It was hard seeing everyone fleeing home, a lot of my friends did exactly that.

"I had messages from people saying 'oh just go home, stop crying about it and just go home' but that just isn't an option for everyone.

"It just wouldn't be fair, I'd never forgive myself if I went home and took something home to them."

"My mum is in a wreck over not being able to have her children with her..."

She added: "It would be selfish of me to want a Christmas with my family at the detriment of maybe not having them around."

Some were hoping to travel even further in the run up to Christmas to see family.

Michelle Brack lives alone in Gillingham but grew up in the Wirral, and was hoping to drive home to spend five days with her 71-year-old mother who also lives on her own.

Some friends had said they could form a support bubble under the regulations, but Michelle believes that her mum is too far away for that to apply.

The 48-year-old said: "I'd have to cross a lot of tiers to get to her, it's a six-hour journey by car. So we've had to say we won't see each other.

Michelle lives alone and was due to drive to the Wirral to be with her mum
Michelle lives alone and was due to drive to the Wirral to be with her mum

"Saturday I was inconsolable, I was in pieces - I was due to see her back in April but that got stopped because of lockdown, I was going to see her on her birthday in October but that was stopped because of Liverpool's lockdown.

"I haven't seen her since New Year's Eve.

"I was really excited, and that is my only family. It's gutting, I know lots of people are in similar situations but I can't say it's not upsetting."

Michelle has suffered from depression in the past, which has her mum worrying about her being alone at Christmas.

But she said her dogs and cats will be keeping her company, alongside frequent Zumba sessions.

"Saturday I was inconsolable, I was in pieces..."

She said: "I'm going to try and be as strong as I can, focus on my exercise, try and think positively."

Jackie Marson, from Rainham, is also working hard to try and see the brighter side of things over this year's difficult holiday period.

The 66-year-old and her husband Roger have had a tough few years looking after their son James, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

The rare condition stops the body from producing enough blood cells, leaving the person prone to infections.

Due to his illness the family have had to shield him for the majority of this year.

Jackie Marson hopes more people will try to look ahead of Christmas
Jackie Marson hopes more people will try to look ahead of Christmas

She said: "We have had a hard time of it, it's left us with mental health issues and I'd forgotten how to laugh. And I had to relearn how to laugh because everything seemed so awful."

But living through the difficulties of the past few years has given Jackie a defiant outlook, and she hopes more people will try to look beyond this Christmas to a time when things will be better.

She said: "Life experiences make you strong, they make you want to fight back and not give in.

"The world doesn't stop turning, so make the best of it - tomorrow is a new day."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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