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Ignacio Lopez Goni, Full Professor of Microbiology and professor of the School of Sciences of the University of Navarra.
Decalogue for a (Safer) Christmas
We have not defeated the virus. The likelihood of a third wave is very high. It is not just a matter of having ICU beds available. Around an ICU bed there are more than a dozen professionals and sometimes wars are lost through attrition. Our healthcare system is exhausted.
In the coming months, SARS-CoV-2 may coincide with other respiratory viruses such as influenza and other pathogens that cause pneumonia. Every year, respiratory infectious diseases cause millions of deaths. In fact, the death rate is seasonal: more people die in winter than in summer.
Until the majority of the population is immunized or vaccinated, we have to continue to be very careful with this virus. Otherwise, this winter could be catastrophic and there could be real carnage. Perhaps the most advisable thing to do would be a total shutdown. In Italy the measures are much more restrictive. In the United States they are having an increase in deaths after Thanksgiving celebrations, the equivalent of our Christmas in terms of family gatherings. But in the West we have decided to live with the virus until the vaccines arrive.
This virus is silent and stubborn. It is transmitted by air, by aerosols. You have to imagine aerosol transmission like tobacco smoke. When someone smokes next to you, imagine that the smoke is the coronavirus. You breathe it in like you breathe in the smoker's smoke. After being next to them for a while, all your clothes smell like tobacco. So is the coronavirus. Moreover, before people show any symptoms of the disease (pre-symptomatic), they can be contagious. And to complicate it even more, most infected people will never show symptoms (asymptomatic), they will not know they are infected but can transmit the virus. The infective dose, the number of viral particles needed to initiate an infection, also appears to be very high leave. All this explains why this virus has been so successful in transmitting so rapidly throughout the world and why it is so difficult to control.
We know what we have to do to minimize contagion (I say minimize because it is almost impossible to avoid it completely): prevent the virus from entering our lungs (mask), avoid entrance by touching contaminated objects (hand hygiene), avoid breathing near other people (distance). We know that closed, crowded, crowded places, very board, with poor ventilation pose a much greater risk of contagion. And we know that the more we raise our voice, the more infectious particles we can exhale, so avoid shouting or singing. The time factor is also very important, the longer we are exposed, the higher the risk of contagion.
If we want less COVID-19, more Masks, Hands (hygiene) and Meters (distance), less Closed and Crowded places and more Ventilation and Vaccinations.
With all this in mind, this Christmas:
1. The best thing would be not to get together and the fewer people the better: five, the better than ten. Prioritize: better only with people with whom you live together. If you have any symptoms: don't go!
2. Receive them with hydroalcohol, frequent hand washing. Show all your affection, but better without kisses and hugs.
3. Wear a respirator as long as possible. In closed places better a FFP2. If you take it off, do not leave it on the table, use a plastic bag or a paper envelope.
4. If possible, sit in alternating places (zig-zag) so that there is no one in front of you.
5. It is better that only one person serves the table (but, be careful, it does not have to be your mother, you can offer yourself). Better not to share plates, nothing "in the center".
6. Don't toast by touching glasses and don't mix and confuse glasses: drink from your glass.
7. Try not to raise your voice too much, sing or shout. If you play music that is not too loud, so you do not have to force your voice and avoid aerosols.
8. If you can, remember that it is always better outdoors than indoors. If you can't, try to ventilate frequently: let the air flow.
9. If anyone smokes, do it outside.
10. Take special care of the most vulnerable: the elderly or those with illnesses.
Regarding Christmas shopping, the same criteria apply: avoid crowded, crowded places, plan your shopping so that it is not at peak hours and you don't have to spend a lot of time inside the store, go "shotgun", and support small local businesses!
Let's try to enjoy and celebrate Christmas, but in the safest way we can, with responsibility and common sense.
A group of colleagues have published this guide of recommendations for this Christmas, it is worth reading slowly and sharing it: