It is exactly one month until Christmas, and if you know me well, you will know that this is my favourite time of year. I love the fairy lights and decorations that start to adorn our whare and streets, and the air of anticipation and festive cheer that infects us all as we count down to a well-earned break. Most of all, I love the opportunity to spend time and share aroha with friends and whānau, and the rituals of connection that bring us together: decorating the Christmas tree, attending Christmas social events and services, preparing kai and celebrating the holiday period. The beautiful Christmas trees here at Te Whenua Taurikura are pictured above – as always it is very special to celebrate the holidays with our close knit team.
Over the past couple of years, our Christmas cheer has inevitably been dampened by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alert levels and traffic lights placed limitations on gatherings, and many whānau chose to implement extra precautions to protect their more vulnerable family members from the virus. Furthermore, many of our whānau have been experiencing financial hardship, struggling to pay the bills let alone plan a celebration.
As we move into the holiday season this year, it is tempting to think that things are back to normal. The traffic light system has been lifted, self-isolation rules have been softened, and we are no longer required to restrict our movements or wear masks in most of the places we visit. Many of us have already had COVID-19 at least once and have been lucky enough to recover with no serious or ongoing effects.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 still presents a risk to our communities. While we have been enjoying our freedoms, case numbers have been slowly creeping back up and experts are predicting that increased travel and public events could see daily infections reach 11,000 over the summer period, and hospitalisations reach 100.
Although it may be frustrating to consider placing limitations on yet another holiday season, I am reminding myself that ultimately, Christmas is about whānau and the best way to celebrate is to do our best to protect our loved ones. This means being vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and making the decision to stay home if we are unwell. It’s worth considering other measures like wearing masks on public transport, and asking whānau to take a test before attending large gatherings or spending time with vulnerable people. These small steps can make a huge difference in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and other illnesses, and mean we can focus on enjoying time with our whānau with greater peace of mind.
Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu will continue to keep whānau updated if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and if there are any changes to current Government policies around managing the virus. In the meantime, let’s all do what we can to protect ourselves and our whānau over the holiday season.