How to stay safe while celebrating festivals during COVID-19

Dr. Bindumathi P L, Sr. Consultant - Internal Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital

The festive season is upon us now with festivals being celebrated across India and the world such as Durga Puja, Dushera, Thanksgiving, Eid milad, Diwali and Christmas.

For most people, the festive season is their favourite time of the year as families and friends visit each other, celebrate with festive delicacies and enjoy their time with their near and dear ones. However, considering crowds of people come together during these festivities, it is mandatory to take safety precautions in order to avoid contracting the COVID-19 virus.

The virus is here to stay for long as there are no signs of abatement.

So, how can we celebrate the festivals with our families and friends while staying safe from COVID-19?

Here are some tips you can follow during the festival:

Adhere to all basic precautions

People are casual when it comes to taking basic safety precautions in gatherings or on the occasion of festivities. In this context, it is important to wear masks, wash your hands with sanitizers regularly and use hand-rubs. These basic measures have to be followed especially because transmission of the virus is rapid when people get together. Underestimating these measures could prove costly for the health of all.

It is important to recognize symptoms early

Symptoms of COVID-19 could be mild to begin with and may lead you to thinking your health is fine. But it is precisely these basic symptoms that you have to recognize early – mild fever, throat irritation, mild breathing problems, flu-like symptoms, cold etc. If treated early, you can avoid contracting the virus or recover from it soon. Critically, this should not be passed off as “common cold or seasonal flu”. A weakened immunity may also make you vulnerable to COVID-19. Make it a point to check with your doctor because you may not only affect yourself, but affect others around you.

Don’t make wrong assumptions about COVID-19

All around the world, people are also recovering from COVID-19, and in India too, the recovery rate is high. This may lead you to think that you may never be infected with COVID-19 or that you may never be re-infected. This is a wrong assumption as there are many cases of re-infection too, though these numbers aren’t as high as recoveries but it is safe not to be making assumptions about the behavior of the disease.

Avoid eating outside

There is no evidence to show that Corona virus can spread through cooked food. It spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the viruses are emitted from his/her body and enter the bodies of people who are in the vicinity. Even though foods are low-risk, you should not compromise on safety precautions as the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours, it can spread through the infected cook or infected food handler. Also, it is always better to avoid outside food during the festival and the pandemic because they may cause stomach infections, eventually impacting your immunity and overall health. There is also no certainty about how hygienic the conditions would be in the present context. Celebrate festivals in small groups and try home-cooked, traditional foods.

Greet people in the traditional Indian way – with a Namaste

With the ongoing pandemic and spread of the virus, it would be best to greet people in the traditional Indian way as greeting with a handshake could prove risky due to possibility of the spread of the disease through contact. This precaution is particularly important during festivals as greeting each other is common and people would like to extend warmth and affection.