Manila : In the wake of the threat posed by the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, offices across the Philippines are mulling hybrid Christmas parties where employees will be herded into separate rooms to mark the festivities.
A real estate brokerage firm in the Makati financial district in Metro Manila on Friday will set up a buffet tablein a public area where employees can get their food and drinks, after which they go back to the designated rooms and enjoy the party virtually with their fellow workers in other rooms, reports Xinhua news agency.
Meanwhile, other offices with many employees have also decided to hold parties on different days of the week in order to avoid large crowds.
Christmas is marked by big celebrations in the Philippines. Traditional religious activities, family gatherings, and endless parties are usually held during the holiday season. The festival decorations and blinking lights pop up in malls, streets, and parks.
Filipinos are looking forward to celebrating Christmas with family members and close friends as Covid-19 infections are slowing down and vaccinations are progressing smoothly.
But just days before Christmas, the Health Department announced the detection of the potentially more transmissible Omicron variant in two travellers who entered the country over two weeks ago.
“We still don’t know a lot about Omicron,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Metro Manila and the entire country will remain under Alert level 2 on a scale of 5 until December 31, Nograles said in a televised press conference.
Alert level 2 means that infections are low and decreasing, and the hospitalisation rate is low.
Christmas this year is more lenient than in 2020 when the Southeast Asian country was logging an average of over 1,000 daily cases and zero vaccination, prompting the government to ban mass gatherings in efforts to prevent a possible virus surge.
With average daily cases of less than 500 this December and more than 38 million people fully vaccinated, the government allows social events such as parties and family gatherings at the limited capacity of 50 per cent for indoor events and 70 per cent for outdoor events.
Last week, the health department issued guidelines for celebrating a “safe and healthy” Christmas this year amid the pandemic.
It reminded the public to continuously practice the minimum public health protocols, choose healthier options during feasts and similar activities, and prevent fireworks-related injuries by avoiding its use and being prepared for accidents.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has urged people to remain vigilant amid the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases.
“Filipinos are advised not to let their guards down and prioritise the health and safety of their families.”