‘Just the cat and I for Christmas’: Londoners’ festive plans in chaos as ‘rampant’ Omicron spreads

Infection rates are soaring as people enter self-imposed lockdowns in the hope of spending Christmas Day with their families, while international travel has been thrown into turmoil by the rapid spread of the variant.

Londoners are facing a “chaotic” and “frustrating” festive season as Omicron cases multiply, city dwellers have said.

Infection rates are soaring as people enter self-imposed lockdowns in the hope of spending Christmas Day with their families, while international travel has been thrown into turmoil by the rapid spread of the variant.

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It comes as the UK sees record levels of Covid-19 cases, with 93,045 confirmed on Friday, following a previous daily record high on Thursday of 88,376.

One of those facing a solo Christmas Day is journalist Lucy Harley-McKeown, who tested positive following, she believes, a work event on Monday evening.

Originally from Norwich, Norfolk, she was meant to go home for Christmas on Saturday but is now “stuck in London with Omicron”.

Journalist Lucy Harley-McKeown with cat Lola. Photo: Supplied

She said: “I’m waiting for a PCR result but my many lateral flows are positive. I started showing symptoms on Thursday evening.”

The 29-year-old, who lives in a house share in Bethnal Green, added: “I’m not sure what I’m technically allowed to do but all my housemates are leaving for Christmas.

“My friend who lives nearby invited me over on December 25 - if I’m testing negative by then - but I think lateral flows are quite temperamental, so it could be just me and the cat on Christmas Day.

“It’s frustrating and it’s hard not to be angry that it’s come to this again. I sort of expected something like this to happen but it’s just sad to miss Christmas again.

“Last year, the lockdown happened the day I was supposed to leave. I was probably more upset about that.”

Another Londoner affected by Omicron’s “worst timing ever”, is Matteo Scannavini, who was struck down with the virus and tested positive on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old video game marketer, from Bologna, Italy, was supposed to fly to his family for Christmas, but is now suffering Covid symptoms including a cough and high temperature.

Lucy’s positive lateral flow tests. Photo: Supplied

“That’s not going to happen now, “he said. “I also can’t get a refund on flights if I’m just positive and the flight is still going on.

“My symptoms started around Sunday and Monday so there’s a little chance that I’ll be able to book a flight for December 23-24 if I test negative.”

Matteo, who lives in Croydon, believes he was “most likely contaminated” by his housemates who work in a school.

He said: “I’ve also felt quite sick… a high temperature, a cough and stuff. Now I’m slightly better and hoping this will keep on improving.

“It’s the worst timing ever.”

Putting a positive spin on the situation is Richelle McNae, 31, an Australian expat living in Shepherds Bush with her fiancee, Travis Wight, 32, who works in pathology at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital.

After moving to the UK in March 2019, the couple, who got engaged in September, haven’t been home to see family in Queensland and the Gold Coast for almost two years, due to the expense of flight caps and hotel quarantine requirements, but are hoping to visit in February.

Australian couple Richelle and Travis are hoping for a better festive season. Photo: Supplied

The university worker said: “There are no plans to talk about for us - all our family are in Australia and most of our friends are in self-imposed isolation so they can keep their plans with family.

“We are in a constant personal battle with what we are comfortable with versus being miserable at home.

“We might make a  last-minute booking after Christmas to drive to the Yorkshire Dales or somewhere similar to get out of London.”

But Richelle, who works at Imperial College London, says the couple are hoping for a better festive experience than last year.

She said: “Although it has been traumatic, we have been lucky by comparison.

“Our family has been safe, I have been able to work from home and my partner, although he is pretty burnt out, has been able to get some pretty amazing work experience.

“I spent Christmas Day alone last year because he got called into the hospital, so this year hopefully will be better by comparison.

“On December 25, it will likely be a Zoom call with the family and maybe a walk in the park if the weather is okay.

A Zoom call to family back home. Photo: Supplied

“I am definitely going to make a pavlova and I usually make my nanna’s recipe shortbread so I will do that and send them into the hospital.

“We are overdue celebrating our engagement with our families too, but, like everyone, we’re just trying to make the most of what we can.

“Plus I won’t have to fight my dad for the last piece of dessert!”

While hoping for a reprieve ahead of Christmas Day, is freelance content writer Simon Judges.

Currently “confined” to his bedroom, the 50-year-old says his symptoms are more like a mild cold and he hopes to recover - and potentially see family - before December 25.

He said: “My wife’s sleeping on the sofa; meals and cups of tea are left on the stairs; I have to wear a mask whenever I leave the room, use my own towels, and use disinfecting wipes on everything I touch.

Simon Judges. Photo: Supplied

“On the positive side, I feel fine. I’m getting work done and catching up on TV, books, and sleep.

“My wife, Jo, 47, who works in admin for the NHS, has been amazing. She’s very practical and is keeping it all together for everyone. So far, it hasn’t really affected Christmas and I’m out of isolation next Thursday.”

But the family, who live just outside Croydon, are worried Jo and daughters Daisy, 17, and Martha, 14, may test positive before then.

“The plan is to meet up with my mum, and my brother and his wife and kids on Boxing Day,” Simon, who had his booster jab last week, said.

“We’ll take a view on that nearer the time, I think.”

Of his symptoms, he said: “From my own experience, it does seem very mild. I haven’t felt anything worse than a cold, but it does seem rampant.

“I know a lot of people in a similar position to me right now. More than at any point in the last two years. The PCR test site was really busy when I went on Monday.

“I’m not sure we need lockdowns but I do think the government should be advising greater caution, in addition to getting boosters.”

How has Omicron affected your festive plans? Let us know on Twitter at @LondonWorldCom.