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How to keep your family COVID-safe at festive gatherings this holiday season

Posted By Angela W / December 8, 2021 / 0 Comments

Grandparents will be getting together with family
at festive gatherings this holiday season.

This year, party planning needs to be all about managing risk, and communicating in advance with guests is key.


christmas dinner table 1200

The venue

Outdoors is the safest setting, say health experts from the South African National Institute For Communicable Diseases to the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. If the weather prevents this, postpone. If you don’t have a garden or veranda and there is no option but to gather indoors, make sure the space is well ventilated – open windows and doors, and limit guest numbers.

The invitation

Stipulate not just the venue but the time – say, noon-4pm, or 6pm-10pm. The longer the event, the greater the exposure and risk. Brief guests about the precautions that will be taken – mask-wearing, social distancing, having dedicated people serve drinks and dishing up. If they’re not prepared to comply, they have the option to decline. Remind them that some guests (such as grandparents) are high risk, and children need to be briefed not to rush up and hug them in their excitement. Advise them of your preferred greeting: elbow bumps, or (the safest option) a wave and verbal greeting.

The set-up and seating

Seat families that live together at their own tables set two metres apart, where they can take off their masks. Place one or two spare chairs 2 metres away from each table, so other guests can pop by to chat safely. Put a bottle of sanitiser on every table, along with a stack of colourful paper cups (write each person’s name on theirs) and plates, disposable cutlery, napkins and straws. Straws allow people who prefer not to remove their masks (such as grandparents) to sip drinks from under them. Consider labeling wine glasses too with individual names – stick a label under the base, or use an oil-based fine paint marker (from most builders’ supply stores) and make the glass a gift.

The food

Ask each family to bring their own food for their table; or for a bring-to-share, to bring food in sealed containers. For this, or if you are providing the food, appoint one person in advance to dish up for everyone, to avoid many people handling the same serving utensils. They can call people up by table. The server should also serve any sharable items such as condiments and salad dressings, if you haven’t enough for each table. They should wear a mask and disposable gloves while serving. If you’re braaiing, appoint a dedicated person to braai, and another to serve sides and salads.

The drinks

Also appoint someone in advance to pour drinks. Alternatively, place a jug of punch or iced tea, and one of water with mint and lemon, on each table, and have three open cooler boxes, one for beers, the second for cocktails and wine, and the third for soft drinks. That way people can help themselves without needing to rummage to find what they want. Have sanitizer and paper towel near the boxes.

The loo

Put out liquid soap (not a shared bar), sanitiser and paper towels, and have a bin in the loo and a second bin outside the loo door, so people can use a sheet of paper towel for opening or closing the door.

The games

Stick to those that allow distancing, such as Frisbee or throwing hoops, but be sure there is sanitiser for use straight afterwards. Discourage singing – even carols – and shouting, which can amplify virus spread in minute droplets.

If there’s a pool, discourage shouting and boisterous games with much laughter for the same reason. There’s no evidence that the coronavirus is spread to people in water, notes the CDC, but don’t let children share flotation devises – label them, and perhaps give them as fun gifts to take home.


Article by Glynis Horning


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