COVID-19: Families across Europe urged to wear face masks at Christmas gatherings

·2-min read

Families across Europe are being urged to wear face masks during Christmas celebrations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidance for the winter holiday season, insisting a rise in gatherings will bring a significant risk of increased coronavirus transmission.

It comes as Germany reported a record number of COVID-related deaths with a stricter lockdown being enforced with shops and schools closing.

Here is what the WHO is saying:

On indoor gatherings

"Even smaller events can be especially risky because they bring together groups of people, young and old, from different households, who may not all be adhering to the same infection prevention measures.

"Gatherings should be held outside if possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing. If held indoors, limiting group size and ensuring good ventilation to reduce exposure risk are key.

"Vulnerable people and older friends or relatives may find it very difficult to ask loved ones to stay away physically, regardless of the anxieties or concerns they may have. Consider what others may be feeling and the difficult decisions they will be facing."

On travelling

For those who are travelling, avoid any transportation that might be crowded.

Some countries require a negative test before granting access, and some others require quarantine. WHO encourages everyone to follow guidance from authorities when travelling.

Skiing and other gatherings

"Skiing does not spread COVID-19, but busy mountain resorts do. During the upcoming holidays, WHO recommends that countries carefully consider adapting the set up of seasonal activities to remove the possibility of crowding, especially in confined or closed settings, including during travel.

"Adjust and communicate decisions and any associated travel guidance early, based on how the virus is spreading domestically and internationally. Prevent those who have COVID-19 and their contacts from travelling.

"Take measures to decongest public transport and key transportation hubs."

On religious celebrations

"In countries experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus, postponing or reducing such gatherings should be seriously considered.

"Regardless of location, religious services should take place differently this year. They should be held outdoors whenever possible or be limited in size and duration, with physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene and mask use, as appropriate."