Residents of Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) member countries are being encouraged to take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves against coronavirus (COVID-19) infection during the upcoming holiday season.
The period, for some countries, starts as early as Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 25, and segues into Christmas and the New Year.
PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Dr Ciro Ugarte, reiterated that these safeguards include getting vaccinated and observing protocols such as wearing masks in public, hand washing and sanitising, and physical distancing.
Speaking during PAHO’s recent COVID-19 digital media briefing, Dr. Ugarte said it is possible for families and friends to gather for holiday celebrations, once they adhere to the prescribed safeguards.
He noted that vaccination is imperative, particularly against the background that holiday celebrations usually involve several generations of individuals, including the elderly, older and young adults, and children, coming together, in instances from different locations.
“If you’re planning to participate in a family gathering or meet with friends, make sure that you have been [fully vaccinated]. If you have received just one dose and have not received the second, make sure that you get the second,” Dr Ugarte said.
Additionally, he said persons who have not been immunised and plan to travel should get vaccinated, “particularly if there is someone… who [could potentially] be impacted by COVID-19”.
“If you’re not [fully] vaccinated, I suggest that you do so at least 14 days before travelling to be fully protected,” Dr. Ugarte urged.
He added, however, that in lieu of attaining full protection, persons should at least have received the first dose 14 days ahead of gathering with family and friends.
Dr. Ugarte said mask wearing in public settings is, arguably, “the most important measure” to contain COVID-19 transmission, while adding that gatherings should ideally be in large, ventilated areas, particularly in countries experiencing cold weather this time of the year, with adequate space to facilitate physical distancing.
He cautioned that “if you have any symptoms, I do suggest that you not travel or participate in any holiday get-together with family and/or friends”.
“Please follow all the measures to protect everyone who will be present at gatherings. Everyone has to protect themselves during these holiday celebrations,” Dr. Ugarte emphasised.