MANILA - The public is urged not to dine or drink together and talk among themselves to lower the risk of virus transmission this Christmas, experts said Monday.
Government earlier urged local officials to prohibit karaoke in their respective areas as it increases the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Filipinos are urged to limit gatherings to 10 people during Christmas celebrations, said University of the Philippines professor Guido David, member of OCTA Research Group.
He warned that a COVID-19 surge may happen in 1 to 2 months if the public does not observe minimum health standards during the holidays.
"Hindi naman natin binabawalan ang mga tao lumabas...ang sinasabi natin magenjoy tayo ng Christmas pero medyo controlled lang, hindi naman 'yung all-out na magpaparty tayo ng 100 people, magvivideoke tayo. Kumbaga medyo muted lang nang kaunti ang celebration natin," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We're not prohibiting people to go outside...We want to enjoy Christmas but in a controlled manner, not an all-out party of 100 people with videoke. Our celebration will just be muted.)
Filipinos can eat separately then afterwards wear a face mask while talking to each other, said Dr. Antonio Ramos, head of Lung Center of the Philippines' administrative services.
"Ang problema ho kasi sa pagkain ng mga Pilipino, magkakaharap na, sabay-sabay pang nakatanggal ang mask, nagkukuwentuhan pa, syempre nagtatawanan," he said.
(The problem with Filipinos dining together is they face each other without masks and talk to each other while laughing.)
"Pwede namang gawin kumain muna sila, pagkatapos nilang kumain hiwa-hiwalay, pwede silang magmask at magkuwentuhan sila."
(They can eat separately then afterwards wear a face mask while talking to each other.)
Most healthcare workers who are infected with COVID-19 get it in the community and not at the hospital, Ramos said.
"Karamihan po 'yun nakukuha sa pagkain nang sabay-sabay, inuman, videoke, mga paboritong gawin ng mga Pilipino," he said.
(Most were infected while eating together, drinking together, during karaoke--favorite Filipino pastimes.)
"Kasi nga bumababa na at wala naman silang symptoms kaya 'yung iba nakakalimot talaga. Sa community talaga nakukuha most of our healthcare na nagpapositive, hindi sa ospital dahil naka-PPE naman sila, may health protocol," Del Rosario added.
(It's because cases are decreasing and many don't have symptoms that's why some are forgetting to observe protocols. Most of our healthcare workers who test positive are infected in the community, not at the hospital because they wear PPE and observe health protocols.)
Filipinos are also urged to participate in online virtual Christmas parties and have their gifts delivered, according to Philippine General Hospital spokesperson Jonas del Rosario.
"Sa panahong ito nananaig ang tradisyon ng mga Pilipino na magsama-sama, siguro sa ngayon po ay pandemya, isang taon na, itong taon na 'to medyo iba ang Pasko," he said.
(In these times when Filipino tradition of staying together prevail, this year we hope Christmas is a bit different.)
"Nauso ang Zoom virtual Christmas parties siguro dun muna tayo. Mga regalo ng ninong, ninang padala niyo na lang o kaya next year na lang," he joked.
(Virtual Christmas parties have become popular and gifts of godfathers and godmothers can be delivered or be given next year.)
If gatherings cannot be avoided, the public is urged to isolate themselves from 10 to 14 days or undergo antigen testing, said former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.
"Kung tayo ay magtitipon-tipon, mas maganda kung sa labas ng bahay para 'yung hangin ay free-flowing," she said.
(If we will gather, it's better to do it outside where air is free-flowing.)
"Malayo pa ang bakuna. Darating at darating pero di pa natin alam kung kailan. In the meantime, kailangan pa rin natin magingat sa ating sarili kasi kung hindi, baka next Christmas ang ise-celebrate natin ay death anniversary ng isang tao, hindi Christmas."
(The arrival of vaccine is still far away. It will come but we don't know when. In the meantime, we still need to be careful because if not, we might celebrate a death anniversary next Christmas.)
The Philippines as of Sunday reported 449,400 cases of COVID-19, with 21,980 active infections.