‘Zoom’ Xmas party is the ‘new normal’

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    “ZOOM” Christmas party, anyone?

    With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections still running into thousands daily and public gatherings still prohibited, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles yesterday suggested that offices and families adapt to the “new normal” and celebrate their annual Christmas parties and activities online.

    Nograles, who is the concurrent co-chairman of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said the public can take advantage of available technologies and do their merry-making this year using mobile or computer applications such as Zoom or Facebook’s video-calling feature.

    In an interview with state television PTV 4, Nograles said: “Mass gatherings are still not allowed. We can instead hold Christmas parties via online or Zoom or use other technologies or different online platforms to hold our Christmas get-togethers.”

    “Of course we want to be happy even just this Christmas, despite the pandemic. But we would be happier if no one is infected by COVID. That is the bottom line,” he said, adding any infection in the family would douse cold water on the Holiday cheer.

    The Cabinet official said virtual or online parties will be in keeping with the government’s consistent call for limited human movement outside of homes to control the transmission of the new coronavirus.

    He said that while everyone would like to celebrate the occasion with their friends and families, having mass gatherings would be too risky, especially for the elderly and the children who have co-morbidities and are immune-compromised.

    Nograles likewise said there was nothing wrong with the recommendation of Metro Manila mayors for private businesses to forgo the holding of Christmas parties this year and extend the general community quarantine (GCQ) classification of the National Capital Region until the end of this year.

    On cue from the Metro mayors’ recommendation, Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo yesterday announced that Armed Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay has ordered a ban on the holding of Christmas parties in all military units this year.

    “All units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not be holding Christmas parties this year,” Arevalo said, hours after PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said he is contemplating on not holding Christmas parties in the PNP, too.

    “The amount that would have been spent for the said Yuletide revelries will be merged with the mass funds to address COVID-19 requirements of their personnel,” Arevalo also said.
    In a statement, Gapay said: “Defer Christmas parties and similar celebrations as an austerity measure and as a gesture of sensitivity to our countrymen.”

    “Fellow Filipinos here and abroad have been suffering. And this is the least we can do to commiserate with the people we have sworn to secure and serve especially in this time of crisis,” said Gapay.

    Earlier yesterday, Cascolan said he is seriously considering cancelling Christmas parties in the PNP. Cascolan will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on November 10 and will no longer be with the PNP in December.

    “First of all, I am actually contemplating on no Christmas party in the PNP. They (policemen) will understand that,” Cascolan told reporters after the inauguration of a Civil Security Group satellite office at the Manila Police District in Manila.

    Cascolan said he was planning to donate the funds allocated for the Christmas parties to victims of the COVID-19 or transfer them to government coffers to better fight the pandemic.

    “Instead of using the funds for the Christmas party, we will be giving it out for COVID patients or maybe for the COVID fund,” said Cascolan.

    The PNP chief also said food items will be distributed to families living in areas under GCQ and modified GCQ.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said Christmas parties will not be allowed because these may lead to surge in COVID-19 cases.

    Año also noted that Metro Manila mayors want to continue with the GCQ classification of the metropolis until end of December.

    It is not only the AFP and the PNP which are cancelling their Holiday activities as the Davao City government said government offices, business establishments and other concerned sectors in the metropolis are not allowed to hold trick-or-treat and other Halloween events this year.

    “Christmas parties and other holiday celebrations will also not be allowed… Christmas parties and other holiday get-togethers are also potential spreaders of the killer Covid-19,” it said in an advisory posted on its Facebook page.

    “Cases are still surging and it is feared that more and more deaths will happen if the unnecessary gathering of people is allowed,” it said.

    DIVISORIA SHOPPERS

    Manila Mayor Isko Moreno appealed to Divisoria shoppers to strictly comply with health and safety protocols when they visit Metro Manila’s favorite bargain go-to to prevent them from being infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus.

    Moreno said shoppers should not lower their guards against the virus despite the more relaxed lockdown rules imposed by the government.

    “You are all welcome to Divisoria but strictly adhere to safety protocols, use face mask, and if possible, face shield, and practice physical distancing,” Moreno said during the inauguration of a quarantine facility at the San Andres Sports Complex.

    As of Monday, Manila have 628 active COVID cases and 551 fatalities. It has logged 17,303 recoveries.

    Also, Divisoria said street vendors are still banned from peddling their wares.

    At the same time, Moreno reminded street vendors against occupying Divisoria’s roadways to peddle their wares. “It is non-negotiable. We will make sure that the thoroughfares there in Divisoria will remain open,” he said. – With Joceyn Montemayor and Ashzel Hachero