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Baroness Greengross, 84, said older people would prioritise seeing family members than their own health this Christmas, in a plea for the Government to relax coronavirus restrictions ahead of the festivities. The former director-general of charity Age Concern, said the impact of lockdown and resultant isolation has been very damaging for people’s mental health, especially among the elderly.
Ms Greengross, who has sat since 2000 on the House of Lords cross benches, said many pensioners are longing to reunite with family members this Christmas.
She told the Sunday Times: “Christmas is coming.
“What do we do about elderly people who long to see their family at Christmas and it looks as if they’ll not be able to? That’s absolutely awful.
“I think I would make an announcement just before Christmas that relaxed some of the rules, because most older people with families would prioritise seeing them, I think, over staying alive.”
Ms Greengross, said the battle against loneliness was unbearable for many older people and the situation is likely to be severely heightened if restrictions aren’t lifted in time for Christmas.
The peer, who has lived alone since the death of her husband, Tory politician Alan Greengross in 2018, said many older people and those with terminal illnesses know that time with their family is precious and limited.
When discussing the dilemma, she said: “If I was going to be totally isolated from them all over the Christmas holiday without technology — because most of the people we’re talking about are not going to be experts in technology — I’m sure that I would, maybe for the last time, want to see my family.”
The former Age Concern chief also said she was concerned the Government had prioritised saving vulnerable people’s lives at the expense of quality of life.
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She said: “Finding ways of improving quality of life and the interaction with other human beings, which is what’s been so damaged with isolation, is more than just a luxury.
“Life always should be worth living, because we’re human beings. We’re social beings.
“We’re not isolated as a species — most of us need other people, and this isolation that can result is awful.”
At the start of the pandemic, more than two million people were asked to shield in their homes for over four months.
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From August 1, the advice to shield was paused.
Ms Greengross’ comments come after the Prime Minister clamped down on gatherings earlier this month and introduced the rule of six.
The new restrictions prohibit people from meeting more than six people at a time, which could stop families from meeting up during the festive period.
Boris Johnson has hinted that he would consider lifting restrictions for Christmas so that people can celebrate together, but it will depend on the rate of coronavirus infections at the time.
A Government insider told The Sun: “The PM is anxious to avoid being portrayed as Scrooge.
“He’s fully aware that millions of people are making big sacrifices to defeat this virus and is considering ways to allow them to experience the joy of Christmas for at last part of the holiday season.”
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