ES Lifestyle newsletter

The pandemic has altered lots of aspects of our daily lives since coronavirus first emerged at the end of 2019.

Since then, words such as lockdown, self-isolation and furlough have crept into everyday conversation, influencing everything from the weekly shop to large scale celebrations and events.

After a decline in Covid-19 cases and the easing of some restrictions, the numbers of infections have started to rise as Brits prepare for autumn.

Let’s take a look at the key dates for the last part of 2020 and how they could be affected by the virus.

The start of Autumn is nigh (PA)


– From September 16 students head back to university

Parents spent the first couple weeks of September navigating new drop off and collections systems as pupils were introduced to classroom bubbles and acclimatised to a return to studies after months away due to lockdown and the summer holidays.

From September 16, Universities will reopen and like most other sectors in the world, new regulations will force students to have a very different education experience.

Rite of passage fresher events have been cancelled, with the Government warning of punishment for rule-breakers.

Ahead of thousands of students arriving at campuses across the country, universities minister Michelle Donelan warned police will take “serious action” against those organising large events.

It came as new restrictions were introduced in England on Monday, September 13 which meant that social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors – including in pubs and restaurants are banned.

After reports some companies have been advertising mass social freshers’ events, Ms Donelan said: “Health advice only works if we all follow it.

New students have been urged to curb antics, especially during freshers week (PA)

“I urge students, just like the wider public, to do their bit and act responsibly to ensure campuses can remain open for them to use and enjoy.”

She added: “As a Government, we have clearly set out the consequences for anyone who risks spreading the virus, whether that’s through illicit social gatherings or organising large events.

“The police and local authorities will take serious action where it is necessary.”

Universities were also told that they should only offer face-to-face lessons for priority courses and students must not return to their family home if stricter measures become necessary amid local outbreaks.

Government guidance dictated that institutions must have a plan in place that “assumes there is likely to be an increase in the number of cases or an outbreak associated with their setting”, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

September 22: Virus thrives in cold climates

Summer is officially over on this date as Autumn begins in the Northern Hemisphere.

As the seasons change cooler temperatures are expected which does not bode well for coronavirus.

Sneezes should be caught in a tissue (PA)

Not only does the strain thrive in colder conditions, but more people are likely to meet up indoors as the weather dips.

However, Professor Ben Neuman, chairman of biological sciences at Texas A and M University-Texarkana, and visiting associate professor at the University of Reading, said the winter could potentially have some benefits

He said: “The move indoors for the winter may not be likely to drive up Covid-19 numbers on its own.

“A cold winter can bring on its own mini-quarantine, as we stay home to avoid bad weather, and comes with a bit of natural PPE in the form of scarves and gloves.”

September 25 – Spikes in the UK and abroad

Since the start of the outbreak, the number of UK’s coronavirus cases has roughly followed trends in Europe albeit a few weeks behind.

Spikes have been already been recorded on the continent and England has seen flare-ups in regional hotspots promoting local lockdowns.

The Government confirmed it was monitoring rates in France and was ramping up testing capacity to deal with demand.

Speaking to Sky News, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “I’m not shying away from the current issue but what I’m trying to explain is that rather than us sitting back and pretending all is well, we have accepted the scale of the challenge, we’re ramping up the test centres, we have increased laboratory capacity, new labs coming on-stream so we can get that quick turnaround.”

He added: “The fact the Government kept on saying about the dangers of a second wave, at all times the Prime Minister, all of us, were absolutely focused on the dangers of the second wave – we have seen what’s happening in France.

“We absolutely are onto this in terms of understanding that through the autumn, if we are to get the balance between getting the economy back on track and getting children into school, then all of us now have a special responsibility to follow all those guidelines and do whatever it takes to beat this virus.”

September 30 – Flu season arrives

The end of the month sees the beginning of the flu season with GPs offering vaccinations to their patients.

Not only could the period place extra demand on the NHS but it could force a lot of people into isolation.

Coronavirus and flu share some symptoms, so even if you do not have Covid-19, you will be told to quarantine if you have a persistent cough, temperature or lose taste under the current guidelines.

A scientist testing samples (AFP via Getty Images)

One way to combat this is to have effective Covid testing in place.

Prof Neuman also highlighted that the similarity of symptoms between Covid-19 and flu could result in an increase of negative coronavirus tests, giving the wrong impression that the virus was decreasing.

 More people could book for Covid tests (REUTERS)

He said: “A possible side-effect of flu and Covid-19 season is that since both diseases start off with similar symptoms, more people will be ill enough to seek Covid-19 testing.

“Paradoxically, an influx of people with the flu seeking Covid-19 tests could potentially drive down the percentage of positive tests, which would then misleadingly suggest that Covid-19 was decreasing.

“That is one reason why per cent positive rates should not be taken in isolation to monitor the pandemic.”


October 31: Halloween and the end of furlough

It is likely that Halloween guidelines will be issued ahead of October 31.

The date often sees children, and some adults, dressing up in ghoulish costumes and going door to door asking for sweet treats.

This could help spread the virus as multiple households touch the same doorbell or knocker.

Halloween could be scarily different this year (PA)

Furlough is also set to expire on this date and millions of people will return to work.

While some workplaces may encourage employees to work from home, some sectors will need workers back.

Not only will this increase the number of people in contact with each other but public transport is likely to be busier giving the virus more opportunity to spread.

The City regulator has proposed that a further support package to help overdraft, credit card and personal loan customers who are struggling with their finances due to Covid-19 should come into effect when furlough ends.

The Financial Conduct Authority has suggested new measures which will give tailored support based on a customer’s own circumstances to those who continue to need help, or who may need it for the first time. It wants to hear feedback on the draft guidance by September 21.

Under the proposals, firms will need to contact overdraft customers who have received temporary support to find out if they still need help.

Where a customer needs further support, firms should use measures such as reducing or waiving interest, agreeing on a programme of staged reductions in the overdraft limit, or supporting customers to reduce their overdraft usage by transferring the debt, the draft guidance says.

November: Fireworks Diwali and Remembrance Day

This month sees two events that usually see large crowds congregate.

First up, it is entrenched in the collective psyche to remember, remember the fifth of November and thousands head to large organised events or garden parties to mark bonfire night.

Fireworks night in London (PA)

If they go ahead it could give Covid a good chance to spread, but if celebrations get cancelled it could put a dampener on the nation’s morale.

Next up is Diwali on November 14 which will come with similar considerations.

The Government is likely to issue guidance about such events nearer the time, taking into account the national picture of coronavirus cases.

Remembrance Day on November 11 could also be subject to new guidelines.

Events are held to think about the casualties of war and many participants are elderly veterans who are in the virus’ high-risk group.

Again, there will probably be measures put in place to stem Covid’s spread through communities.

Field of Remembrance at Royal Wootton Bassett in a walled garden in the grounds of Lydiard House and Park, Swindon.(PA)

Another C word will start to get attention as the month draws to a close and the nation prepares for Christmas.

Light switch on ceremonies will most likely be scaled back or cancelled, as local authorities contend with social distancing measures and increased spending associated with the virus.

Events such as Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park has already stated that it will not be opening this year.

December: Christmas, New Year and new measures?

Much of how the UK spends Christmas on December 25 will be dictated by what has happened in the preceding 100 days.

Spikes in infections could see widespread bands of different households mixing creating havoc for families of all shapes and sizes planning the festive lunch.

Many families will hope to tuck into a  roast dinner with all the trimmings (PA Archive/PA Images)

Office parties and pub functions could also be in jeopardy, although this could come as a relief to some workers.

The declining high street could also take another hit as shoppers opt to buy gifts online with renewed gusto.

Children may also not be allowed to sit on Santa’s lap, forcing parents to get creative in making the festive period special.

Father Christmas in a face mask (PA)

Some schools have already cancelled nativity plays and music recitals and churches will have to plan how they hold their services based on the latest information.

New Year’s Eve on December 31 comes with its own issues.

While social distancing measures are likely to be in force, lots of people will also be battling cabin fever and may be tempted to party which could prove problematic in battling Covid.

However, it is often darkest before the dawn. After winter must come spring and as the seasons change, hope comes in the form of vaccine trials and warmer weather.