WHO advises against family gatherings during holidays

By: Jovic Yee - Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 25,2020 - 10:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said families would have to make the “difficult decision” of not getting together during the coming holidays to reduce their chances of being infected with the new coronavirus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO health emergencies program’s technical lead, said the agency understood that people wanted to be with their families during the holiday season, but because the pandemic still raged there was the risk that they may unknowingly spread the virus to their loved ones.

“There is no zero risk, unfortunately. In some situations, the difficult decision not to have that family gathering is the safest bet. Everyone would need to take that decision based on your current situation, on your family, on where you need to travel,” Kerkhove said at a briefing in the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

‘No safe or unsafe decision’

Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, added that at this point in the pandemic, “there is no safe or unsafe decision.”

“There is only higher and lower risk of the situation getting better or worse, depending on what you do,” he said.

As an example, Ryan said that following Canada’s Thanksgiving celebration in October, the country saw an increase in the transmission of the virus.

“Because people come together, they mix, they travel. It’s inevitable that in the presence of community transmission, that if you further release the opportunity for the virus, it will find opportunities to transmit,” he said.

In the Philippines, reunions among family and friends and going to Christmas bazaars are traditional activities during the holiday season.

This is why the Department of Health (DOH) has asked the public to avoid attending large family, social or religious gatherings, in-person shopping and indoor gatherings that involve singing and dancing as these are activities that have a higher risk of transmitting the virus.

Similar to the DOH’s advice, the WHO also recommended to the public to opt instead to connect with their friends and loved ones online, especially if they would be visiting someone who has a higher risk of getting sick or dying from COVID-19.

Celebrate after pandemic

“Even if you can’t celebrate together this year, you can find ways to celebrate when this is all over. We are doing that in our own family and we are going to have one heck of a celebration when this is all over, regardless of when that is,” Kerkhove said.

On Tuesday, the DOH logged 1,118 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 421,722. Caloocan City recorded the most number of new infections, 89, followed by Davao City (52), Laguna (52), Quezon province (47) and Quezon City (46).

The DOH said 196 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 386,792.

But the death toll rose to 8,185 with the deaths of 12 more patients. The recoveries and deaths left the country with 26,745 active cases, of which 83.7 percent were mild, 7.9 percent asymptomatic, 0.25 percent moderate, 2.8 percent severe and 5.3 percent critical.

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TAGS: Holiday Season, pandemic

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