Coronavirus surge maroons up to 150,000 people in self-isolation

Despondent Cabra native admits ‘feeling like I have ruined everybody’s Christmas’

It will be lonely this Christmas for a growing number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and must now self-isolate for 10 days.

With further infections expected to be reported today and on Christmas Eve it is likely there will be up to 150,000 people obliged to spend Christmas Day alone.

Among them will be Fiona Whelan who has been self-isolating in her bedroom since testing positive on Wednesday. She had been at separate weddings on Friday and Saturday night and felt unwell on Sunday.

“I feel like I’ve been wholly irresponsible, but I didn’t break the law,” she said.


She lives at home in Cabra, north Dublin with her father (89) and mother (79) and her 19-year-old son. Her son had symptoms, but tested negative.

There had been plans for 14 members of her extended family to have Christmas. It is now down to three and she will not be there. “I feel very bad, I feel like I have ruined everybody’s Christmas,” she said.

Ms Whelan’s positive test came as a surprise as she had the disease back in July, as did her son. “I’m tired, I have a chesty cough and a sore throat now, but the other one was much worse. We were just floored, banjaxed every day.”

Still, she has her dog Alfie for company and Netflix. "I feel like I've gone through the whole of Netflix and it's only day four."

Virgin Media TV presenter Muireann O'Connell is another who will have to spend Christmas without her family. She posted on her Instagram page that she just tested positive and "the guilt is overwhelming".

Her father Brendan died back in March and it was to be the family's first Christmas in her home town of Limerick without him.

“It’s bad enough thinking about having given this to someone, but at Christmas . . . It’s horrendous,” she wrote.

“Not only that but this is our first Christmas without Dad and I feel like the worst daughter. It was always gonna be shit but just being there would at least have been something. I know I’m not alone.”

David Whelan, his wife and son and daughter in Malahide were planning on meeting up with his wife's family in north Wales for Christmas.

They had booked the ferry, packed their bags and bought presents. But one of the family, who went to a house party at the weekend, tested positive at 9pm on Wednesday night less than 12 hours before they were due to get on the ferry.

No presents

The family have since rebooked for Easter. In the meantime the cupboard is bare and they had to shop for groceries on Thursday morning while also waiting for a Covid-19 test for the three remaining family members.

“Christmas dinner could be anywhere from one to four of us depending on test results and isolation. And no Christmas pressies to hand out either!” said Mr Whelan.

“We were going to visit my wife’s family for Christmas. We go over every second Christmas. We had booked a large B&B. Covid-19 has put the kibosh on that.”

Andrew O’Reilly said he had been very careful but met a work colleague who tested positive and he did too.

“My heart sank and suddenly Christmas was cancelled. My partner sleeps in the sitting room, while I’m stuck in the bedroom, and we talk through the door. This is what Christmas will look like, I guess,” he said.

“I had planned my first day off work in a long time on the 21st to finish my Christmas shopping and wrap presents, but instead I spent the day in my room, trying to organise some groceries and essentials, which was difficult with all of the delivery slots being taken due to the time of year.

"Dunnes Stores in Tallaght doesn't usually do a click-and-collect service, but they understood the situation and were very helpful in taking a list over the phone, so we can at least have some treats for Christmas day."

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times