We’re now in a very good place in Australia in our fight against COVID-19. When we wrote this, we had very few active cases and no community transmission. Plus, it’s summer, and a vaccine doesn’t appear to be too far away.
After the year we’ve come through, many of us probably want to celebrate big this festive season.
Of course, it’s important to adhere to the limits on the number of people who can gather in your state or territory. But eased restrictions around the country do now allow for larger gatherings with our family and friends.
As we get into the festive spirit, it’s important we also think about how we can conduct this year’s celebrations in a COVID-safe way.
Before we get to some tips, let’s recap a couple of the key things we know about how COVID-19 can spread.
First, we know close contact is a major risk factor for the spread of COVID-19. This is because droplet spread plays a key role in transmission.
So for example, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, infectious droplets can land on you or in the environment. Then if you touch your face, or nearby contaminated surfaces, you could introduce the virus into your body by touching your mouth or rubbing your eyes.
In a confined space with poor ventilation, there’s also increasing evidence COVID is spread via airborne transmission, which is when droplets smaller in size (aerosols) hang around for longer in the air.
5 tips to reduce the risk
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year, it’s that it’s not heroic to soldier on if you’re sick. If you are feeling unwell, stay at home. This applies to you and your guests. If you are hosting and you’re unwell, look for another venue, or cancel
Plan for an outdoor gathering — the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors. We should make the most of Christmas falling in summer in Australia
If you’re hosting a gathering indoors, dine in your biggest room, or spread everybody out across a few rooms. Open your windows and doors to let in the fresh air and, importantly, increase ventilation
Avoid crowded seating at the table. Set up a few extra trestles or camp tables to space people out
Encourage your guests to perform frequent hand hygiene. Stock up on hand sanitisers and soaps and have them readily available in all rooms and outside, especially if people are helping themselves to food.
And a few other things …
So if you’re going to perform a hearty rendition of Deck the Halls, perhaps this is something to do outside, not in a crowded room or near food.
Hugs and kissess
No one wants to be a grinch at Christmas, but keeping close contact to a minimum — including in the form of hugs and kisses — will help reduce the risk. Under the mistletoe or otherwise.
Food and drinks
Ideally, reduce the sharing of food, including things like buffets. You could ask guests to bring their own food, but this is not necessarily practical, or as festive. Given the low prevalence of COVID-19 in Australia, it’s probably reasonable to cater for your guests, as long as you’re careful.
When you’re preparing food, whether for your own gathering or to take to someone’s place, remember to keep up regular hand hygiene. And avoid preparing food if you’re feeling unwell.
With celebratory cocktails, champagne, beer, wine and soft drinks likely to feature on the day, this will mean plenty of glasses lying around. It’s important for people not to share drinks. Using tags on glasses can help people remember which is theirs.
Time for a game of backyard cricket after lunch? The wheelie bin is OK to use as stumps, and over the fence is still six and out. But avoid saliva on the cricket ball.
A bit of balance
We’ve endured a year of rules and recommendations to protect ourselves and others. Nothing has been normal this year and our Christmas and New Year celebrations may also need a bit more thought. We might need to come up with some sensible and practical compromises in how we celebrate.
Christmas gatherings do present a significant risk — close, prolonged contact with people, often in confined spaces. Time and time again during 2020 we’ve seen these factors contributing to COVID-19 transmission.
We definitely deserve to have some fun over the festive season, and with COVID so well under control in Australia, we’re in a good place to celebrate. But it’s still important we stay vigilant during this period, so we start 2021 on the right foot.