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Image caption Afsar surrounded by her family on a recent outing

It will be a Mother’s Day like no other on Sunday, as scores of people self-isolate and are forced to rethink plans with loved ones. With the usual lunches and afternoon teas cancelled, what can people do instead to celebrate?

Affi Parvizi-Wayne lives just three doors down from her 74-year-old mother, Afsar, in north London. Like millions of others, they won’t be able to have the family lunch they planned for this weekend.

For them, Mother’s Day is usually a triple celebration because it coincides with Afsar’s birthday and Persian New Year.

“To suddenly be told the only interaction is through the window is tough for my mum,” says Affi, a social entrepreneur with two children.

Instead, she says her family plan to congregate on the pavement outside Afsar’s house and sing happy birthday. “My nieces are going to release some balloons”.

Doorstep drop-off

Afsar has four children and six grandchildren, and is usually the person who brings everyone together.

This year, she is going to cook the family a traditional Persian dish of green herby rice and fish, and leave it on her doorstep to be collected. The two households will set up screens by their dining tables and have a virtual meal together.

An added bonus is it also means family members in Iran can be present too. “This Sunday will be about keeping the spirits up,” Affi says.

Elsewhere in London, it will be chicken legs from the freezer for Ros Ball and her family, who are self-isolating after one of them showed coronavirus symptoms. Ros’s mum Penny, 73, is also staying indoors in Bedfordshire.

But they plan to sit down to eat together over FaceTime. Ros’s children aged, 9 and 12, will then play some online games and quizzes with their granny.

Banana muffins

Others are still planning to share a meal in a more conventional way.

Becky Greenwell and her sister have moved back in with their parents, in Woking, to be with them during the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve had to cancel plans to celebrate Mother’s Day with a Sunday roast in a pub.

But it means they’ll be able to sit round the dinner table together.

“We are planning on cooking my mum a three-course meal based on her favourite foods and printing out a special menu, like we used to when we were kids,” she says.

Image caption Becky, together with her sister Amanda and mother, Catherine, in Sri Lanka on Mother’s Day last year

Meanwhile, Savannah Dawsey-Hewitt, from Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, says she has baked her mum some ginger, turmeric and banana muffins, topped with brazil nuts.

All the ingredients were chosen for their immune-boosting properties.

According to current guidelines there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 is passed through packages or food, if cooking is what you plan to do.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends following good hygiene practices when handling and preparing food, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.

For other it will be about dealing with self-isolation.

Rob Bacon’s mum Vicky, 75, will receive a bumper pack of her favourite magazines, sweet treats and crucially wine, for Mother’s Day this year, to help see her through.

Members of the newly-established family Whatsapp group – called The Bacons – also plan to set-up chairs a safe distance from Vicky and her husband Roy’s front door, bringing their own food and drink.

“We will all wrap up warm and talk,” says Rob, who works in public health for local government.

Seeds in the post

Marie Phillips’ mum, Janet, is a nurse. They can’t be together either on Mother’s Day so she has posted her a grow your own vegetable kit to her keen gardener mother.

“We’ve all got to find distractions and try to put our energy into something positive,” says Marie.

Planting seeds and waiting for vegetables to grow or flowers to bloom can be a hopeful reminder of better seasons to come.

For some people, even delivering a card or present won’t be an option.

Consuelo Martin, in Birmingham, is in self-isolation and plans to send her mum a virtual card, together with a subscription to an online streaming service and Spotify.

“My mum is on her own and I’m worried she is going to get bored in self-isolation. I wanted to make sure she has music and films and television at her fingertips.”

Think creatively

For others technology could be the solution.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 this week, Dr Sarah Jarvis said cancelling celebratory lunches and big gatherings would be the most loving and responsible thing for people with elderly mothers to do.

Instead, she suggests investing in a mobile phone or tablet and setting up so elderly relatives with Skype or FaceTime.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK agrees. “We need to think creatively about how to stay in contact with older friends and relatives to keep morale up.”

She suggests considering using video technology that is integrated on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

She says those are often be the most straightforward and easy to use, and to remember that older people may also prefer to use equipment like a mouse rather than a touch screen.

“It might turn out that some of these options remain a good way to maintain regular contact and nip loneliness in the bud in the long-term.”

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