Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are spreading cheer this Christmas Eve by ringing bells in an effort to combat loneliness due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The initiative, named the “Christmas Eve Jingle”, was launched in October by Mary Beggs-Reid, as a way for her local community in Harrogate, northern England, to celebrate the holiday together despite measures in place to combat the spread of the deadly pandemic.
Beggs-Reid called on her neighbourhood to step out at 6pm local time to ring bells for two minutes together. She also invited people to give their neighbours who are likely to be alone a set of bells so they can also take part.
“We cannot physically be together but we can ring together! A chance for us to feel connected and have a happy memory of 2020,” she wrote on the event’s Facebook page.
Her idea has travelled far and wide with nearly 500,000 people from around the world now signed up to participate.
People in Australia and New Zealand have already posted videos and pictures of their family taking part.
Closer to home, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to step out this evening to ring bells after calling Beggs-Reid to praise her for the initiative.
The UK is one of the most impacted countries in the world with nearly 70,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 and more than 2.1 million infections confirmed.
Restrictions were initially scheduled to be relaxed over Christmas in the UK to allow families to gather but were tightened once more on Saturday.
England has been operating under a multi-tiered system since early December to combat the spread of the pandemic at the local level.
A majority of the country has been under the toughest two tiers of restrictions since then but authorities introduced a new tier, Tier 4, that kicked in last weekend in areas where the virus was particularly prominent like the capital.
People in London, the southeast and east of England will therefore be expected to stay at home and to restrict indoor socialising to their household only and outdoor gatherings to just one person from another household.