Darshan Lodaya has a recording studio at his home, but the musician ensured that he didn’t have any guests over during the duration of the lockdown. However, post the Unlock 3.0 announcement a few weeks ago and the easing of restrictions, even he couldn’t resist calling two of his friends over to his place. “They sanitised their hands, but apart from that, we continued as normal. They were clearly not infected and neither am I. They are my close friends and we trust each other, so it wasn’t a concern,” he says.
The Mumbai-based musician is not alone in this assumption. There are many people in the city who have started hosting small gettogethers. This writer recently had to contend with a noisy social gathering in a building near hers. Social media is full of happy images of friends catching up with each other over a cuppa chai or a couple of drinks at home. And before you ask, no, there are no masks in sight, nor is social distancing being followed.
Experts say it is still not wise to throw caution to the wind and behave as if everything has returned to normal. According to Dr Farah Ingale , director of internal medicine at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, it is best to assume that every person is Covid-positive and take precautions accordingly. “The easing of restrictions notwithstanding, the virus still poses a threat,” she says, recommending that people stick to virtual get-togethers as far as possible.
Don’t forget to SMS
With the festive season upon us, it is likely that people will visit their near and dear ones. If you do decide to call friends or acquaintances over, the rules of SMS — sanitise, mask, social distancing — should be adhered to strictly. “Both, the hosts and the guests, must have their masks on the entire time. There is no point in only one of the parties wearing a mask,” says Dr Ingale.
Dr Trupti Gilada, a physician who focuses on infectious diseases at Unison Medicare and , Prince Aly Khan Hospital and Hospital , concurs. She, too, emphasises that masks are a must while entertaining guests indoors. “When people are with their friends or relatives, they assume that the other person will not be infected. It’s important to remember that even you may be carrying the infection. If everyone keeps their masks on, it lowers the risk of transmission,” she says.
It’s normal to want to hug a friend or to, at least, shake their hands, after such a long time apart. However, the experts recommend that you resist the urge and maintain a safe distance.
Air out the rooms
Hosting the get-together on a terrace or in an open area is recommended as there is better air flow and that reduces the risk of the infection being transmitted, according to Dr Gilada. As a balcony is a luxury in Mumbai, the next best thing, she says, is to keep the windows open at all times. This allows for cross ventilation, ensuring fresh supply of air into the room, which would dilute the virus particles to some extent.
While having a meal with your guests is not recommended, sharing utensils and plates is a definite no. “Try and avoid meals as part of the socialisation as the act of eating itself creates aerosols. Do not sit face-to-face while having the meal. Plates should not be shared and should be cleaned with soap and water after use,” says Dr Gilada.
Care for elders
From the beginning of the pandemic, it has been repeatedly emphasised that the elderly are at maximum risk of getting infected. In fact, eight out of 10 COVID-19 fatalities in the United States have been in the age group of 65 and above. Therefore, exposing the elderly in your family to guests coming from outside is not a wise idea at all.
Minimise the movement of guests so that they don’t come in contact with too many surface areas. “Whether it is the bathroom or the kitchen, keep the exhaust fan running at all times. If they have to use the bathroom, sanitise it post use and ensure that the guests follow all hand hygiene precautions,” Dr Gilada adds.
Tidy up immediately
Once the guests leave, leave the windows open and the exhaust fans running for some more time. And then, sanitise the space. Says Dr Gilada, “All the surface areas they could have come in contact with including the sofa, table-tops, door knobs and switchboards should be thoroughly sanitised.”