Val Convery is considering missing out on Christmas lunches with their family to keep themselves safe from catching Covid-19. 

Val lives with several chronic health conditions which include type one diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Lynch Syndrome, and an unknown pain condition.

For Val, catching Covid-19 could change their life forever and they can’t afford to forget about it just because it’s the holidays.  

The pandemic doesn’t stop during summer 

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The NZ Herald that this “will be the first Christmas and summer holiday in three years where we haven’t had Covid hanging over us”.  

“We had a couple of Christmases there where we managed to stay relatively open and operating, but it was still there in the back of everyone’s mind – would there be disruption?... So this will be the first in ages where I hope people feel that lift from it a bit,” she says. 

In the same week there were more than 34,000 reported cases of Covid-19 - over 9000 of those were people who had been reinfected with the virus. 

More than 400 people were hospitalised and 40 people died with Covid-19 considered a contributing, attributing or underlying cause. 

Since New Zealand’s third wave of Covid-19 is expected to peak the week of Christmas, Val says Ardern’s messaging is insensitive and scary.

“It’s so ironic because Covid is hanging over our heads, we are literally having a third wave.”

“I totally sympathise with everyone who is tired of Covid. If a non-disabled person is tired of it, how do they think disabled people are feeling? We still need to be compassionate for the people you're around,” Val says.

‘It’s a frightening time’

The Prime Minister’s messaging is “dangerous”, cellular immunologist at the University of Auckland and Long Covid researcher Anna Brooks says.

“That is absolute misinformation. It's just dire that that came out,” she says.

“Every single infection or reinfection is an increased risk of cardiac problems, strokes, clots, long Covid, and death.

“The frustrating thing is the only way of preventing these risks is not getting infected. But there's no appetite for masking. There's no appetite for more access to boosters. There's no appetite for publicising that it's dangerous. You won't hear anything come out of the political parties now because we're going into an election campaign. It’s a frightening time.”

How can we stay safe this Christmas?

Brooks says it’s important to use the tools we have to minimise the risk of catching Covid-19 either for the first time or again.

“We all want to have fun. But if you go to a party with an asymptomatic infection and infect people, you may change someone's life forever.”

Brooks wants to encourage people to grab a box of RAT tests and to test before attending any event or gathering.

“In the same vein, if you've got any symptom and you are coughing and sputtering and feeling rubbish, but you’ve tested negative, don’t push through and go anyway. Don't take any illness anywhere.”

Brooks recommends having gatherings outdoors or where you can get better ventilation but says to be conscious that you can still catch or pass on Covid-19 in these settings too.

And if people were eligible for a booster, they should get it now, she says. 

“We are going into our third wave and reinfection is at one in four cases - you need to do everything you can to protect yourself from being reinfected because it's not just about getting long Covid, it's about triggering so many other long term health problems too. We need to take this seriously.”

People can still have fun but also be conscious of others

Val says they wish more people would consider wearing a mask to festivals and events.

You can still go to a festival and have fun, and wear a mask and be safer.”

“The amount of energy you need to put a mask on is nothing compared to the lengths other people have to go to if you don't wear a mask.

“The other main thing is just wanting people to be aware of what needs their family members and friends have to be safe and take them seriously, otherwise they might not come.”

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