DOH warns of doing Christmas carols indoors, crowded areas amid COVID-19 threat

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 10 2021 10:40 PM

People visit the Night Market at the Greenhills Shopping Center George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file
People visit the Night Market at the Greenhills Shopping Center during its launch on November 4, 2021. The night market is one of the mall’s attractions for the upcoming Christmas season and will be open from 4 pm to 11 pm, from November 4, 2021, until January 7, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday night warned the public about holding Christmas carols indoors or in crowded areas, as this heightens the risk of COVID-19 infection amid eased lockdown levels. 

It is also better if the Christmas carols would be conducted outdoors or virtually, DOH said. 

The statement from the agency came after the interior department earlier in the day confirmed that caroling is allowed in areas under Alert Level 2. 

"Under Alert Level 2 guidelines, there are no explicit provisions against caroling, although LGUs are encouraged to develop specific guidelines based on their respective local settings," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a message.

"There are risks for close contacts during transmission under voice-related activities (such as singing), especially if conducted in crowded or closed settings," she added. 

Such risks could be lessened if caroling is made outdoors, and as long as those conducting it adhere to physical distancing and other health protocols. 

"[Risks can be mitigated] with appropriate distance from observers, at smaller groups to avoid crowding, and not including the vulnerable and older seniors," said Vergeire. 

Several cities in Metro Manila said they would release their own guidelines on conducting the Christmas tradition. 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government earlier said face shields must be worn "as of the moment" as the policy on wearing it could change soon. 

In Mandaluyong and San Juan City, wearing a face shield, face mask, and physical distancing is a must. 

Caroling will not be allowed in public transport in Mandaluyong.

Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez at Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, meanwhile, said they would release their rules soon. 

In Marikina City, only those aged 12 above are allowed to do Christmas carols outside of their homes. They must also be accompanied by an adult. 

Last year, the traditional practice was banned to curb the spread of the respiratory disease. 

The Philippines continued to see a slow down of new COVID-19 infections, with cases counting fewer than 3,000 for the 9th straight day on Wednesday. 

The number of active cases, 29,138, is also the lowest in more than 8 months. 

The improving pandemic situation is why Metro Manila was placed under the looser Alert Level 2 from Alert Level 3 last week. 

The current level allows greater mobility among the public, and more tourist spots to resume operations. Minors are also allowed to go out and go to establishments and malls, regardless of vaccination status. 

-- With reports from Doris Bigornia and Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

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