Two extra guests for Christmas is ‘best-balanced’ option, research shows
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Two extra guests for Christmas is ‘best-balanced’ option, research shows

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A scenario in which people can invite two extra visitors into their homes to celebrate Christmas is the best option under the coronavirus restrictions, according to research by the University of Ghent (UGent).

The researchers asked 5,690 respondents to choose between four possible scenarios to celebrate the winter holidays this year. They were asked to identify the psychological pros and contras of each scenario, such as the difficulty of choosing who to invite, and how connected they would feel.

30% of respondents indicated that they preferred celebrating Christmas with the current measures, 27% opted for a scenario with two extra guests, and 35% chose to allow four extra visitors in their home.

While a scenario with four extra guests received the most votes, it would be best to opt for the scenario with two extra guests, according to motivational psychologist Maarten Vansteenkiste, adding that it would be the best-balanced one at a psychological level.

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People would be less worried that the slight relaxation could lead to getting infected, or to be the start of a so-called ‘Christmas wave’ of new infections, he said on Flemish radio on Tuesday.

“But you also benefit from the other advantages in that scenario,” Vansteenkiste said. “The fact that you can celebrate together, with more people than just your ‘cuddle contact’ or your family, and therefore have more connection. You also have some extra autonomy, and that matters to our well-being.”

Only 8% of respondents would want to celebrate Christmas the usual way, without restrictions for the number of people allowed. They indicated that this is because it leads to a lot of worrying, about getting infected themselves as well as about infecting others.

According to the measures that are currently in force, people will be allowed to spend Christmas with the people in their household, and one extra person (the so-called ‘cuddle contact’ of one person in the home).

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet on Friday to discuss if and how a relaxation of the measures for the holiday period is possible.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times