Christmas and year-end parties are currently being planned, after nearly two years of lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over and with the newly discovered Omicron variant which threatens to be even more transmissible than previous variants, extra care has to be taken as far as such gatherings are involved.
The Philippine General Hospital has recommendations coming from its Hospital Infection Control Unit for those organizing long-awaited gatherings to keep them as virus-safe as possible.
PGH-HICU still prefers social gatherings to remain virtual. But should face-to-face activities be conducted; it stressed the importance of maintaining good air circulation in venues.
“Face-to-face programs will be allowed if these are held in rooms where the doors and windows can be opened to maintain good air circulation and simulate the air exchange of an open-air setup,” it said.
All participants in activities such as games, singing, Christmas caroling should wear face masks properly at all times. PGH-HICU also suggested monitoring the number of individuals who will be attending such events.
“If the indoor setup is preferred, the exact number of individuals who will be allowed in these activities will be dictated by the duration of the activities, the use of air purifiers and High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters,” it said. It also urged the use of carbon dioxide monitors to check air quality which should be maintained at a level of less than 800ppm.
When it comes to food, it discouraged all forms of buffets and banquets, preferring the use of packed meals even in outdoor venues.
It also highly recommends that participants should have received their COVID-19 shots.
The pandemic has been with us for almost two years and by now we should be fully aware of all the precautions and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The temporary sense of security offered by the vaccination rollout and drop in the number of infections in recent weeks has been shattered by news of the Omicron variant. As we approach the season of Christmas and year-end parties, let us still exercise utmost restraint.
If we can manage with another round of virtual parties, that would be ideal. Those who insist on hosting face-to-face parties will need to do so with health and safety on top of mind for now.*