Holiday Season: ‘Tis the Season to Celebrate Safely!

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Last year, the pandemic forced many of us to change our holiday plans. Annual gatherings were canceled, unwrapping gifts with extended family was moved over to Zoom, and going to the mall turned into online shopping. 

Things have changed since then, giving hope for a better holiday season this year! Vaccines for individuals over the age of five, as well as booster shots for adults, are now readily available. Most businesses resumed operations at increased capacity, some schools have reopened, and several airports are now packed with travelers. 

While returning to normalcy appears to be exciting, the pandemic is far from over. The continued widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our communities, and the presence of a new variant means we are not yet safe. Therefore, we must stay vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves and our loved ones this holiday season. 

Here are some tips for a safer and happier gathering during holidays.

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1. Get vaccinated

If you’re eligible, the best method to reduce COVID-19 risk this holiday season and keep your family and friends safe is to get vaccinated. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), while no vaccine is 100% effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines offer a high level of protection against becoming extremely ill and dying from the disease. By getting vaccinated, you are doing your part to keep both yourself and those who are not yet qualified for the vaccine safe.

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2. Wear a mask

We know it sounds cliche! And maybe, you’re tired of hearing it, but if you’re already vaccinated, it never hurts to wear a mask for added protection and safety. Given the increased attention of Omicron and the concern about the Delta variant, the health sector recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask. 

If you’re planning to spend time indoors with your relatives, or in crowds, such as shopping malls and grocery stores, wearing a well-fitted mask is also strongly encouraged. Not only can it help protect yourself, but you can protect others, too, who are immunocompromised or unvaccinated.

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3. Establish basic rules for in-person gatherings

If you’re hosting a holiday get-together in person, you must ensure that everyone has a secure environment to celebrate. To lessen your risk and that of your guests, consider the following:

  • Learn what’s required for gatherings in the community where you’re planning to get together, such as group size and the number of people you can meet with who aren’t family, and what the local rules are for traveling.
  • Set up tables with physical distancing in mind, so that families can eat together without masks while being physically separated from others who don’t live with them.
  • Delegate only a few people to serve the food.
  • After eating, guests should be encouraged to clean up their own plates. This reduces the number of persons who come into contact with potentially contaminated objects. Consider using disposable utensils and napkins that can be discarded after the meal.
  • Establish a hand washing and sanitising station.

By following these safety procedures at your gatherings, you can minimise the chance of spreading the virus.

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4. Maintain physical distancing

It’s possible that you haven’t seen some of your relatives in a long time, and when you do, you may expect hugs and kisses! While it’s reasonable that we all feel the emotions once we see our loved ones again, we still need to observe physical distancing. Staying too close to individuals outside of your family raises the risk of COVID-19 infection for everyone. Older relatives who have not been vaccinated and those with weak immune systems may be particularly vulnerable.

Fortunately, there are numerous methods to connect with individuals around you without increasing your chance of getting sick. Instead of exchanging hugs or handshakes, you can do elbow bumps, foot bumps, or fist bumps! You can do air kisses, too, but with a mask on!

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5. If you’re sick, don’t host or attend a gathering

If you’re feeling sick or if you have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t even attempt to host or attend a party! Stay as far away from others as possible, especially those who are at a higher risk of becoming very sick with the virus. Rather than having an in-person gathering, you may expand your options, such as eating together virtually, sharing recipes before the meal, or even hosting virtual games via Zoom or Google Meet! Clearly, it’s better to postpone the party than to potentially spread the virus to those you love. 

Whether you’re celebrating with your families or traveling abroad, your health should be your top priority this holiday season.

Remember, we may be on a holiday, but the coronavirus isn’t! So, be cautious, and don’t let your guard down! By following the safety tips mentioned above, we can make sure that many more holidays will be spent together with our loved ones. 

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