This Christmas, more than 1.4 million people in South Yorkshire may not be allowed to see relatives, Sheffield's public health director has indicated.
In a bid to curb infection rates, the region has just been placed under the country's tightest tier-three coronavirus restrictions.
This implies that pubs, casinos, and soft play centers must now remain closed while people in almost any setting are prohibited from meeting anyone from other households.
But hopes that after a quick month-long intervention, the measures could be lifted have now been dashed by Greg Fell, Sheffield's top health official.
He said: "I hope I 'm wrong, but I feel like it's going to take more than a couple of weeks."
Since the government regulations currently state that tier three reviews will take place only every 28 days, if the restrictions were maintained for longer than the initial four-week period, it would imply that they were still active until Christmas.
That would effectively leave families unclear whether or not they could gather over the festive period, leading to what a "digital Christmas" is already being labeled.
Speaking to BBC Sheffield, Mr. Fell said, "I believe that the numbers would have to be much lower than they are now for us to be moved back to tier two."
"The numbers are pretty high, and they're going up, so we need to turn that corner around and get them back down again."
Currently, county-wide rates are at 486 cases per 100,000 in Barnsley, 415 in Sheffield, 407 in Rotherham 407, and 393 in Doncaster 393. In England, the average is 117.
How exactly an area, once placed in tier three, moves out of it again remains unclear.
Community Secretary Robert Jenrick, who said only that measures would remain "as long as they are absolutely necessary," has provided the most substantive comment from the government on the issue so far.
Julia Burrows, Barnsley's public health director, said it was too early to say when the city would be ready to move out of Tier 3 and would "depend on people adhering to the new rules."
In the meantime, Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region and also an MP for Barnsley Central, urged people to "do their bit" and stick to the new rules in a letter to residents.
He wrote: After the progress, we made over the summer, it is profoundly frustrating to return to stricter restrictions.
"Many of you are going to fear for your families, your livelihoods, your future. Some of you are going to wonder if it's worth these measures. Those feelings are understandable.
But we should not be under any illusions: they need these measures. The scientific advice is that they can be of assistance.
"We still have a hard path ahead, but at the end of the tunnel, there is a light. These constraints will help us reach it sooner and at a lower cost."