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Editorial

COVID-19-safe Christmas

/ 05:06 AM December 24, 2021

Editorial cartoon

The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus might well be the Grinch that stole Christmas this year. Just when you think that, thanks to extensive vaccine rollouts, it’s now safe to party with friends and family on this most anticipated of holidays, comes news that this more transmissible coronavirus strain has become dominant in the world; a number of countries have reimposed lockdowns and the strictest containment methods.

Still and all, even in a country where the term “quiet gathering” may be regarded as an oxymoron, a satisfactory median between caution and celebration may be achieved in marking what’s been described as the longest Christmas holiday in the world. According to health experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH), having a safe Christmas celebration involves remaining vigilant and continuing to observe assiduously the minimum health protocols that have guided people’s actions through this two-year pandemic.

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Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire has urged caution despite the decreasing number of cases in recent weeks. “We need to keep in mind that COVID-19 is still here and we can still get infected or infect other people,” she stressed. “I know this is the second time we are celebrating Christmas differently, but hopefully we can do these sacrifices so we can prevent further infections in the community.”

Vaccination, coupled with appropriate protective measures, has been key to limiting the spread of the virus. Approved COVID-19 vaccines may not fully prevent virus transmission, but they provide a high level of protection against severe illness or death from the disease. So families and households should get vaccinated, encourage their friends and kin to get their jabs as well, and, as an extra precaution, perhaps limit their guest list this Christmas to only those who are fully immunized.

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It may, in fact, be more prudent to scale down, and celebrate face to face only with people within your bubble, like immediate members of your household. Make good use of technology by hosting parties online via Zoom or video calls. Minimize gatherings where multiple households and families come together, as this always increases the risk of infection. Consider a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household, as there’s no second-guessing people’s health status.

When at a gathering, keep at least a meter apart from other people, especially in closed or confined venues. If you can’t avoid crowded or indoor settings, open windows to increase the amount of natural ventilation, wear a mask, and insist on a healthy distance from each other. Better yet, hold parties outdoors where good ventilation can allow air and droplets to dissipate quicker. Settings with increased risk of infection include cafés and restaurants, choir practices, fitness classes, karaoke bars and nightclubs, offices, and places of worship.

Instead of buffet-style meals where people tend to congregate around the serving plates, why not pre-packed or plated meals? As for entertainment, avoid karaoke or loud singing which would entail taking off one’s masks, and expelling air droplets that may contain viruses. A group sing-along using a digital platform might be a better idea.

Keeping alcohol and sanitizers handy is a must, especially if guests can’t wash their hands frequently enough after they’ve inadvertently touched various surfaces.

People who need to travel can minimize the risk of infection by keeping a safe distance from other passengers, wearing masks and face shields at all times, and sanitizing hands often. When traveling by bus or car, keep the windows open to allow more ventilation. If you’re feeling unwell, don’t travel and join the party online instead. Always cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash hands thoroughly afterward. When you get to your destination, remember to keep a safe distance from vulnerable members of the family such as the elderly, the pregnant, the unvaccinated, and those with compromised immunity.

Or, you can reduce to the barest the number of gatherings you’d want to attend to further minimize your exposure to the virus. In COVID-19 prevention, less is more. Save the big parties for when the community you move in has achieved a high vaccination rate.

Christmas this year might still be different—simpler, smaller, quieter—if already a slight improvement from the desolate holidays a year ago when COVID-19 cases and social restrictions were at their height. But who says you can’t serve the same festive dishes and use the good china? Maybe some old traditions would have to go, but, in the name of good health and safety for all at this extraordinary time, new ones can be created. Let’s be merry like there’s tomorrow, because there is.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

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TAGS: Christmas, COVID-19, Omicron
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