One in four parents in England are planning to break lockdown rules and take their children to visit their grandmothers to celebrate Mother’s Day, a survey of more than 2,000 people suggests.
Carried out for the Observer by the Parent Ping app, the survey shows that English families who observe Mother’s Day are planning to meet – and more than a quarter of parents are prepared to break Covid-19 restrictions to do so.
Adults from separate households or separate bubbles are not currently allowed to visit each other indoors in England, even if both parties are vaccinated. The English rules also state that adults can meet only one other person outdoors – so in groups of two – although under-fives do not count towards this limit.
One in 20 parents say they and their family will visit a vaccinated grandmother indoors. Just under a quarter of parents whose children are all over the age of four will also go with their family to meet grandmothers outdoors. A further 16% of parents are planning to see their mothers without breaking the rules – because they are in a bubble together – and 1% plan to visit their mother in a care home, which is also allowed.
Company director Mike Towers (not his real name) is planning to meet his 76-year-old mother and his brother for a Mother’s Day walk. All three were vaccinated weeks ago.
“I’ve followed the rules for 12 months,” Towers said. “I haven’t been inside my mother’s house for a year and I haven’t seen her since October.”
His father died several years ago and his mother lives alone. “The last time we went out socially was Mother’s Day last year. I think if people are vaccinated, the science suggests they can quite safely meet in a socially distanced way outside.”
Gabriel Scally, a professor of public health and a member of Independent Sage, said it was vital everyone follow the rules, regardless of the day and their circumstances: “We don’t know if vaccines stop people getting the virus, developing the virus and potentially transmitting it to other people. What we do know is that some of the vaccines aren’t effective, to a great degree, against emerging variants and that not everyone is protected by the vaccine.”
Nine out of 10 people will be protected, he said. “But some it won’t protect, and you just don’t know who. We still have a lot of the virus circulating in our population, we’re still having thousands of cases every day and there are still variants popping up around the place. What we’ve got to do is get the virus down.”
He added that a desire to celebrate Mother’s Day was not a good reason to break the lockdown rules: “It all smacks to me of the Christmas debacle, which cost so many lives. This is not an à la carte situation, where you can make your own individual decisions. It’s still breaking the rules and we should all be sticking to the rules. Because, in truth, we’re not protected until we’re all protected.”
Karen Wespieser, founder of Parent Ping, said not visiting on Mother’s Day was a difficult decision for many: “For some people, it’s been a really long time since they’ve seen their families, and at the back of your mind, as you and your parents get older, you question how many more Mother’s Days you have left.”
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that those who have had both doses of a vaccine could visit other fully vaccinated people indoors, without masks or social distancing. In England, where the vast majority of those vaccinated have so far received only a single dose, no such restrictions have been lifted and the rules are no different for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.