Considering the COVD-19 pandemic, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is encouraging member countries to take precautions as they celebrate Christmas this year.
PAHO’s Assistant Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, says decisions relating to public and private engagements should be based on the most up-to-date COVID-19 information, particularly data indicating whether the virus is spreading and if countries’ health systems have adequate capacity to deal with cases.
Dr. Barbosa said PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that countries experiencing widespread transmission should consider postponing or reducing engagements involving mass gatherings.
“Regardless of location, [activities like] religious services should look different this year. They should be held outside, whenever possible, only meeting inside when it’s not,” he emphasized.
He also argued that small indoor gatherings, like family dinners, are “especially risky, even the small ones”, noting that these bring together groups of young and elderly persons from different households, who all may not be adhering to similar infection prevention measures.
“They should be held outside, when possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distance. If held indoors, [minimizing the] group size and choosing well-ventilated areas can help reduce exposure,” he added.
Dr. Barbosa also said individuals should rely on data about the virus’ spread to continually reassess their travel plans.
“We have been seeing countries across our region and across the world place testing at the heart of their travel policies. This cannot guarantee safe travel or eliminate the risks related to infected travelers,” he posited.
Edited by Jesus Chan
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