The Omicron variant and booster vaccinations have been the main foci during the past few weeks. But as María Guadalupe Miranda, UNAM Infectology Professor, explains, the potential of a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, first pointed to in late November by the Ministry of Health, cannot be discarded as holiday celebrations threaten to increase the number of infections as they did last year.
Globally, there was a 20 percent increase in COVID-19 cases from October to November, a trend that is expected to continue as many countries—such as Mexico—see spikes in infection rates as a result of the holiday season. A trend largely observed last year, as many individuals attended mass-gatherings despite not having been vaccinated yet.
In 2021, more than half of Mexico’s population has been fully vaccinated, which Miranda claims will significantly lower the number of deaths and hospitalizations as being fully vaccinated lowers mortality rates 11 times. But 49 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated. Furthermore, senior citizens and those living with pre-existing conditions such as obesity, hypertension, immunocompromised diseases are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications. For that reason, everyone must comply with safety regulations this holiday season to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible.
The first most clear advice is to avoid group gatherings but based on last year’s events, it can be inferred that many will choose to attend family or group celebrations. But even in attendance, many health protocols can be followed.
The first is to avoid mass gatherings in closed spaces and hold celebrations in open spaces, said virologist Susana López Charretón. Even with cooler climates, the constant ventilation of gathering spaces is one of the easiest ways to avoid contagions. No matter the location, continued compliance with health protocols should be maintained, such as maintaining a 1.5-m separation between attendees, using face masks and avoiding face-touching.
Additionally, reimplementing some of the earliest pandemic health protocols could go great lengths in protecting oneself and others, including: avoiding face-touching; covering one’s mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing; and washing one’s hands before coming into contact with shared food, after touching one’s face mask or pets and upon leaving and entering new spaces. Using anti-bacterial gel is not recommended over washing one’s hands if they are visibly dirty.
Planners of gatherings should also take additional steps to ensure the safety of attendees. Aside from trying to ventilate spaces as much as possible, they can ensure that those who are eligible have received their vaccines and ask everyone to take precautions five to seven days before the event. They can also ask for negative COVID-19 tests upon entrance and for those who do not feel well, even if they’ve tested negative, to stay at home. In the given case that someone tests positive after the event, all attendees should be notified so they can respond accordingly.