Good hygiene practices for festival gatherings during the pandemic

The fall in the number of new COVID19 cases in India has been the most heartening piece of news in these gloomy times. As per official MHA data, the number of active COVID19 cases has fallen by 18% in a fortnight. However, historical data suggests that this trend may be short-lived and cases may rise rapidly during and after a festival. States like Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra & Telangana saw a rapid rise in COVID19 cases during Onam and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Keeping this in mind, it is our collective duty to exercise caution while celebrating upcoming festivals like Navratri, Dussehra, Diwali, Eid-e-Milad & Christmas; and prevent the spread of COVID19 by promoting and practicing best practices.

Festivals in India are celebrated by visiting family and friends, going to different places, and exchanging festivities. However, this year, amidst the ongoing pandemic, it would be wise to avoid any form of physical gathering. You can celebrate with your loved ones virtually through video-conferencing apps.

However if you are organizing a physical event to celebrate the festival, you must consider the following:

Location of gathering

Indoor gatherings carry a higher risk of spread due to inadequate ventilation and outdoor gatherings should be preferred

Duration of gathering

Longer the duration of gathering, higher the risk of spreading the virus. Try not to be in the same room with someone for more than 15 minutes.

Guest count

Limit the gathering to as few attendees as you can. Also avoid inviting the elderly and those with vulnerabilities - especially those with respiratory and cardiac conditions.

Communicating guidelines before the event

Ensure that guidelines are issued to everyone along with the event invitation. Guests must be specifically informed that coming to the event will require them to wear a mask and maintain social distance. Also, provisions must be made for guests to practice hand hygiene.

Ensuring guests comply with the guidelines

Take a print-out with guidelines and paste it at the entry point. Guidelines should ask guests to wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, and practice good hand hygiene.

Provision of disposable masks and hand sanitizers

Providing guests with disposable masks will ensure that those who are not wearing masks can still comply with the guidelines. Also, keep a hand sanitizer dispenser at identified hot spots at the venue and ensure you have adequate hand sanitizer refills.

No handshakes and hugs

It will be prudent to avoid physical greetings such as handshakes and hugs. Celebrate by greeting each other with a namaste.

Guidelines to be practiced during the event:

  • Wearing masks should be mandatory
  • Maintain social distancing i.e. keep a distance of 6 feet with other guests
  • Avoid using restrooms in high traffic times such as towards the end of an event
  • Chanting, shouting, gestures that increases physical contact should be avoided

Keeping safe with Food and Beverages:

  • Ask guests to eat in small groups. A staggered approach minimizes the number of people who have to lower their masks together.
  • Ensure all the guests, wash their hands properly before and after consuming food
  • Limit the access to food preparation areas such as the kitchen
  • For serving food, it is better to have 1-2 designated people who can serve all the guests rather than multiple people doing the same
  • Use of disposable utensils and other items such as table cloth, napkin should be preferred as much as possible
  • Look for healthy food and beverage options
  • Avoid self-serve options such as a buffet-style meal. Use grab-and-go options for better hygiene
  • Ensure utensils and leftovers are disposed off hygienically. Reusable items must be sanitised adequately.