Covid-19: Can you safely enjoy the holidays? Experts offer tips

UAE announced safety protocols for taking part in Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations

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Photo: File
Photo: File

Published: Sun 19 Dec 2021, 5:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 Dec 2021, 6:09 PM

The Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus are trying to spoil the holiday spirit, but there still are ways to enjoy the festivities.

The explosive spread of the omicron variant is causing many to wonder if they should cancel their holiday plans.

Health experts know that people need to spend time together, so they are offering advice. Above all, getting vaccinated remains the best defense and getting a booster shot further increases protection.

A look at strategies to enjoy the holidays as safely as possible.

Stay safe, have a 'green pass' and celebrate

Authorities in the UAE have announced the Covid-19 safety protocols for taking part in Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Residents must have a green pass on their AlHosn apps to enter a venue.

Additionally, they must have a negative result of a Covid test taken within 96 hours of the event.

Event venues can operate at 80 per cent capacity. Attendees are required to wear masks and maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres.

Organisers are required to check the temperature of attendees and regulate entry so as to avoid crowding and gatherings.


Is it safe to attend a holiday party?

It depends. Large parties aren’t as safe as small ones. Indoor parties aren’t as safe as outdoor gatherings.

At a large, indoor party, one person without a mask can result in many people infected, said Dr. Celine Gounder of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

“Some of these are turning into superspreader events,” Gounder said.

Even if everyone is vaccinated and boosted, breakthrough infections can happen, including with Omicron, which has shown the ability to sidestep the protection of vaccination in lab tests.

And don’t count on symptoms to tell you who’s carrying the virus, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer in Seattle and King County.

“Half or more of infections are spread from people before they have symptoms, so symptom screening remains important, but doesn’t identify everyone who can spread Covid-19,” Duchin said.

Masks, opening windows, running an air purifier are strategies recommended by health experts for gatherings during the holidays.


What about travel?

Check the rules of your destination country if you’re planning to travel abroad.

Several countries are adding new rules in response to omicron.

People traveling by air should be extra careful about wearing masks in crowded airports.

“Wear your mask all the time,” White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told a Wall Street Journal podcast. “It will be required to wear a mask when you’re on the plane, but don’t get careless in the airport with all the crowds that are in the airport and take your mask off.”

Is there any good news?

Kids often catch viruses at school and there’s some evidence with flu that school breaks can slow the spread. So it might be lucky that omicron is emerging during the holidays, said virus expert Elodie Ghedin of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Going into the holidays where kids are staying home from school is actually a good thing,” Ghedin said.

“If this had occurred in the fall, it probably would have been worse with transmission. That’s the one silver lining going into the holidays.”

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