Calls, no hugs: UK moms spend Mother's Day far from family

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A woman walks by coronavirus graffiti, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday March 21, 2020. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for others it causes severe illness. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

LONDON – Sunday was Mother’s Day in Britain and the government had a stark message for millions of citizens: Visiting your mom could kill her.

In a message to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson implored Britons to forego the day's traditional family visits, parties and Sunday lunches since authorities could not "disguise or sugarcoat the threat” poised by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If your mother is elderly or vulnerable, then I am afraid all the statistics show that she is much more likely to die from coronavirus,” he said. “This time, the best thing is to ring her, video call her, Skype her, but to avoid any unnecessary physical contact or proximity.”

As Britain struggles with how strongly to crack down on everyone's daily movements to slow the spread of COVID-19, Johnson has been accused of sending mixed messages. On Friday, he said he hoped to see his 77-year-old mother on Mother’s Day. His office later said he would speak to her by Skype.

People have found creative ways to stay in touch. Some sons and daughters left Mother’s Day bouquets on doorsteps. Other families planned to sit down for a meal at the same time but in different homes, linked by FaceTime or Skype.

Social entrepreneur Affi Parvizi-Wayne usually gets together with her extended family in London on Mother’s Day, which coincides with the Persian New Year and her mother Afsar’s birthday.

“It’s a big deal for us. She cooks, we go round there, we all go for a walk — it’s a whole-day event,” she said.

This year, 74-year-old Afsar cooked a traditional New Year's meal of herbed rice and fish from ingredients dropped off on her doorstep. Parvizi-Wayne plans to deliver the food to relatives nearby and hold a virtual family meal.