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Coronavirus support bubble families prepare to reunite

By Rozina Sini
UGC Newsgathering

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image copyrightLucy Gibson
image captionLucy is looking forward to holding her niece again

Millions of people who have not been able to touch loved ones since lockdown began will be allowed to reunite with them from Saturday.

Further easing of coronavirus restrictions in England announced by the government mean single adults living alone - or single parents with children under 18 -can form a support bubble with one other household.

The idea is to help people who've been cut off from friends and family, like Lucy Gibson, a make-up artist in Watford.

She is looking forward to creating a support bubble with her sister and her sister's family, starting by travelling to Manchester to see them on Saturday.

"I live alone and I don't have any friends living close by. I'm amazed at how I have coped." she says.

"I am so excited about going to see them this weekend.

"Finally I will be able to hug them all.

"My three-year-old niece has already told me I have to sleep in her bed during my stay."

image copyrightLucy Gibson
image captionLucy Gibson is looking forward to giving her niece a big hug

Lucy has booked her train ticket to Manchester and is confident she will be able to maintain social distancing to get there.

  • Coronavirus bubbles: How do they work and who is in yours?

"I have a seat reservation and I understand the train companies will be making sure we maintain a distance so we are not sitting close together, and I've got my gloves and my mask," she says.

Lucy will stay with her sister's family for four days before returning to Watford.

image copyrightKatie Sidell Photography
image captionLucy will finally be able to stay for four days with her sister, Gemma, brother-in-law, James, and their three children

"I am looking forward to spending time with my niece and nephews, watching movies, eating fish and chips and just spending family time together."

"It has been difficult at times but thankfully my mental health is strong and I have been able to deal with lockdown quite easily. I know that isn't the case for many people," she says.

"I'm looking forward to giving her a big hug"

But for Sarah Griffiths Hughes, 70, lockdown has been challenging.

image copyrightSarah Griffiths Hughes
image captionSarah Griffiths Hughes will hold her daughter and grandchildren after months of no physical contact

She hasn't any physical contact with family members since lockdown began but, on Saturday, she will be able to hug her daughter, Sam, for the first time in months.

"It's been really hard and it's horrible not being able to put your arms around your family.

"We have all been quite miserable," she says.

Sarah's daughter lives near her home in Dorset and has been doing her regular grocery shopping and leaving it at the bottom of the stairwell of the building where she lives.

"I'm looking forward to giving her a big hug. I've been messaging her a list of what I need and she has been a great help getting the shopping for me."

Sarah says not being able to hold her grandchildren has been the hardest.

"My children and grandkids phone me and we Facetime most Sundays.

"Yesterday my daughter turned up at the front door.

"It was the first time I'd seen her and my granddaughter for months and we chatted at a social distance outside.

Sarah has also not been able to see her own elderly mother for months.

"My mum is 92 and lives in Sussex. She is worried she won't see her family again. That's so sad to hear.

"She's terrified that her last few years she will be locked in her little bungalow.

"It's not nice to hear that and it's hard to stay cheerful.

"It's the loneliness. I don't think people realise how lonely and frightened we all are," she says.

While the introduction of support bubbles is welcome news for Lucy and Sarah, others say the new rules are confusing and don't address what happens to people in shared homes or with separated parents.

image copyrightGetty Images

If you already share childcare with your ex during lockdown and are a single parent, you can still form a support bubble with another household.

But grandfather Chris Collyer in Leeds is confused by the rules.

"My daughter and her husband are separated. Our grandkids live with my daughter. Their father also has a partner with children, therefore the children will divide their time between two households.

"Now, bearing in mind multiple households are not allowed to mix, does it mean we won't be able to create a support bubble with my daughter and our grandchildren?

According to the Department of Health, Chris will be able to see his grandchildren and create a support bubble with his daughter because she is a single parent - despite the fact her children spend time with their father's household.

As the father is in a two-adult household with his own partner and children, he would not be eligible to make a separate bubble under the current guidelines.

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  • Support bubbles: How do they work and who is in yours?