‘No pandemic parties for Halloween, Xmas’

Can the public finally enjoy Halloween and Christmas parties? Not so fast, the Department of Health said Saturday.

FESTIVE MOOD. Customers choose from several Christmas decors at a stall in the Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City on Saturday. The Philippines usually kicks off preparations for the Christmas holidays as early as September, but the COVID-19 pandemic has somehow muted the celebrations. Rico H. Borja
Even with COVID-19 restrictions eased in Metro Manila and some provinces, “pandemic parties” and similar celebrations should only be shared with family, as inviting people from outside the home may still carry risks.

“If it is a mass gathering, it’s still not allowed unless you celebrate it within your family bubble. We just have to follow safety protocols,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained in a public briefing.

“The parties, Halloween events, should take into consideration our restrictions,” she added.

This developed as the Philippines logged on Saturday 5,807 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,751,667. All laboratories were operational, while two laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the DOH reported.

Alert Level 2 chance ‘very high’

The department also said yesterday the chances of Metro Manila being placed under ‘No...Alert Levez 2 soon is “very high” as the growth in fresh COVID-19 infections continued to slow down.

Vergeire, however, emphasized this could only happen if positive efforts on the virus response are maintained in localities.

“If we look at the projections in FASSSTER, the cases would continue to decline but our assumptions are based also on the detection to isolation of localities, which is at 4 days,” she explained, referring to the disease surveillance system.

An official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) agreed, saying Metro Manila may further ease lockdown restrictions if COVID-19 cases continue to go down.

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said the National Capital Region remains on a downward trend in cases, with the daily toll averaging 1,500 to 1,600 in recent days from a high of more than 10,000 during the surge.

Local government workers start to install Christmas lights along Aguinaldo Highway in Dasmarinas, Cavite. JR Josue
“If that goes down to less than 1,000, it’s possible,” Densing said.

The intensive care unit (ICU) bed utilization rate in Metro Manila and nationwide is at 49 and 56 percent respectively as infections dropped with more people getting vaccinated, he said.

While parties are still limited within the family bubble, health protocols should still be considered, such as the 3Cs or activities that are crowded, involve close contact, and held in closed or indoor areas, Vergeire said.

“If the area is not well-ventilated and there are people who you need to interact with physically, we have to remember that we should refrain from going to these (areas) so we won’t be infected,” she said.

Premature campaigning

People running for office, meanwhile, should also be wary of premature campaigning, as this could become super spreader events, according to the health official.

“I would like to remind local governments that while we understand that we need to campaign for the elections, we should hold ourselves responsible for these safety protocols,” she said.

During the same briefing, Vergeire said the chances of Metro Manila being placed under Alert Level 2 soon is “very high” if the pandemic response continues to improve.

Based on the agency’s projections, the country’s new cases would continue to decline.

Metro Manila logged an average of 996 daily new cases in the past seven days, as of DOH data on Friday.

This is the first time in nearly 3 months that the 7-day average fell below the 1,000-mark, ABS-CBN Data Analytics head Edson Guido pointed out.

This week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also warned that crowding, together with the public’s complacency in following health protocols, could lead to a fresh wave of cases in a few months.

This as visitors have kept flocking to the Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach and other areas due looser quarantine restrictions.

Topics: COVID-19 , Department of Health , Christmas , Halloween
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