People worldwide have been forced to cancel or radically alter their Christmas celebrations as a new wave of coronavirus restrictions prohibited gatherings, travel and church services.
“There is not a safe Christmas party in this country right now,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told CNN according to Reuters. He said that it would be several months before vaccines were widely available and stressed that there should be “no Christmas parties.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against holiday gatherings. In a Wednesday Twitter announcement, the CDC warned that new daily cases were rising, with a seven-day average of 66 cases per 100,000 people. The United States set a new record for the seven-day average of daily cases Dec. 17, with a reported seven-day average of 220,523 cases per day, according to the CDC. (RELATED: Is There A New War On Christmas?)
U.S. #COVID19 cases are rising with an average 66 cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days. This holiday season, help slow the spread:
???? Avoid travel and gatherings.
???? Wear a mask.
↔️ Stay 6 feet away from others.
????️ Wash your hands.
See more: https://t.co/1nMYQAjpSq. pic.twitter.com/LndTpKSQOV
— CDC (@CDCgov) December 23, 2020
Leaders around the world have increased restrictions for their citizens in order to prevent large Christmas celebrations — and the anticipated viral spread associated with them.
California’s regional stay-at-home orders go into effect when a region reaches 15% ICU capacity or less. Under the stay-at-home orders, public and private social gatherings of any size are prohibited, masks are required and social distancing is mandated. Greater Sacramento, the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California – four out of California’s five regions – were under the stay-at-home order for Christmas.
Marching bands played music in the streets of Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas Eve, but a crowd was absent. Bethlehem entered into a strict lockdown during the holidays to prevent the spread of coronavirus, closing the international airport to tourists and heavily restricting Christmas celebrations, the Associated Press reported.
Greece canceled door-to-door children’s carols, a decades-old tradition in the country, according to the report. Church services in Australia were required to have social distancing, and worshippers had to book tickets online in advance to attend. In the Philippines, extended families were reportedly prohibited from celebrating together with a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and mass gatherings were banned. (RELATED: 44% Say They’re Not Doing Christmas In Person Due To Coronavirus)
Pope Francis celebrated Christmas with a socially distant Mass, according to CBS News. The Pope told people that they “must obey” coronavirus rules, and barely 200 people attended the Christmas vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was moved from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Italian government put in place a 10 p.m. curfew, meaning that some “Midnight Mass” services were held just a couple of hours after dark, reported the Associated Press.
“Despite the restrictions and limitations we want to celebrate as much as possible, with family, community and joy,” Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa said, according to the Associated Press. Pizzaballa was able to hold a small Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. “We want to offer hope,” he told the outlet.
South Korea implemented new restrictions on Christmas morning. The government put fines in place for restaurants that were allowing large groups, shut down ski resorts and national parks and restricted hotel occupancy, the Associated Press reported.
“The last week of the year that begins with Christmas is normally a time where people gather and share their affection with one another, but it’s hard to see that this year in any parts of the world,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a meeting about the virus.