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How to Stay Safe (and Sane) This December Festive Season

News Desk

Covid-19 is still out there and gaining momentum in both the Eastern and Western Cape – add to this an influx of holidaymakers and we could be headed straight for a second wave.

Burt Rodrigues CEO of Biodx and clinical psychologist Alexa Scher share their thoughts on how to stay safe during the festive season.

It’s that time of year where normally everyone is thinking of braaivleis, beer and open roads but this year there’s one huge difference. Covid-19 is still here and until we’ve been vaccinated we’re all still vulnerable.

Compared to the United States and Europe our Covid-19 statistics have been pretty good the last few months but we’re seeing a large rise in certain parts of the country – and what’s worrying is that these are areas known for holiday partying and packed beaches.

Super spreader events

This week’s news started with reports of matric rage super spreader events around the country with multiple cases of covid-19 emerging. Many of these young people will be not only spreading the virus where they’re staying, but the surrounding areas before boarding planes and other transport to return home – with the virus…

Companies are holding the end of year parties with people posting photos on Facebook and Instagram of ‘happy’ staff dancing the night away, often in inside venues.

And talking of super spreader events, packed beaches and crowded restaurants make keeping safe social distancing over peak holiday times a real challenge.

Holiday travel danger

“Whether you’re flying or driving you’re going to come across many covid-19 transmission points along the way, whether getting an Uber or Gautrain to the airport, stopping on the road for breakfast or a lunchtime burger or even paying toll fees. These are times when the excitement of being on holiday mustn’t stop you remembering the Staying Safe Rules. Wash your hands, wear your mask, have a spare one with you and carry your own personal sanitiser/ disinfectant with you everywhere”, says Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx.

Another big concern is the annual migration of workers from urban areas around the country back to rural parts of the Eastern Cape, which are currently hot spots, and then returning to cities around the country to work after the holidays. Possibly carrying the virus back with them.

Christmas time – family time

According to Rodrigues, “The good news is that we’re likely to have great weather allowing us to celebrate outside which does help. Just one person, who may be showing no symptoms, is all it takes for whole families to become infected and for the next few days until they’re diagnosed, spread the virus even further.”

Having fun whilst keeping control

Many people might find turning down social engagements which they’re not sure about difficult at this time of year. Here are a few useful tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask how many people will be at an event before accepting invitations
  • If you arrive at indoor gathering and no-one’s wearing masks, don’t be afraid to keep yours on
  • If it’s a sit-down event and the chairs are close together, take your food and maybe stand or sit apart – if you feel uncomfortable excuse yourself and leave
  • Take your own sanitiser/disinfectant with you and don’t be afraid to use it
  • If you’re on a beach and someone comes to sit too close, either move or politely ask them to give you some more space

Making your event safe

  • Use paper plates and plastic-wrapped cutlery
  • Make sure your seating is preferably outside or by an open window
  • Spread any chairs appropriate distances apart
  • Think about who you’re inviting – are they people who mix with a lot of people? Will you be having at-risk/elderly people there with them?
  • Serve snacks (chips, dips etc.) in separate paper containers so there’s no sharing off one bowl
  • The same goes for any food served – don’t let people share serving platters unless they’re a couple
  • Have several hand sanitizer, spare masks and disinfectant available for your guests

Finding a balance

According to clinical psychologist Alexa Scher, “When people are struggling with their mental health, which many have during these difficult months, by now they’re feeling, ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I’m going to spend time with my friends and family, throwing precautions and safety measures out the window. It’s all about keeping a balance of your mental and physical health. It’s really important to see people and feel connected whilst still staying safe and adhering to Covid-19 guidelines. It shouldn’t be all or nothing – it can be both. Here are some tips to help manage anxiety during this time.”

  • Control your environment (Mask, sanitiser and distancing)
  • Focus on the now – one thing at a time
  • Try to be patient with yourself and others
  • Find ways to show yourself love, kindness and compassion

Let your anxieties out – talking to friends and family about how you’re feeling so you’re all on the same page. Tell them:

  • You feel uncomfortable in crowded spaces
  • You might choose a spot furthest away from the crowd

“A simple conversation with each other to establish what can make everyone feel most comfortable is often all it takes. We need to balance our short term goals to feel connected and see those we love, with the long term goals of making sure we keep our loved ones alive to share many more years of celebrations,” concludes Scher.

At Biodx, we care about people and the planet. So we’ve put together some infographics to help you stay aware of potential covid-19 transmission points while you’re travelling this holiday season. Hopefully, by doing so we can help prevent the spread and save some lives in the process.

Safe, happy holidays, whether you be staying at home or travelling.

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