Omicron: Should you cancel your Christmas party?

·6-min read
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020!Multiracial young creative people are celebrating holiday in modern office. Group of young business people are drinking champagne with sparkling bengal lights in coworking. Successful hipster team of freelancers.
Will you be attending the office party this year? (Getty Images)

It's beginning to look a lot like it's COVID's world, and we're just living in it.

Just as we were getting excited about celebrating an almost-normal Christmas, after last year's hugely restricted festivities, up pops the Omicron variant to threaten our plans.

So far, there's no suggestion that Christmas is cancelled, or even that the new strain is particularly virulent — though it does seem to be highly transmissible and cases have already been identified in Britain. 

Rules are changing fast, and in some cases, contradicting each other. It's now a requirement to wear a mask in shops, on public transport, in vets, banks, cabs, dentists, surgeries, and hospitals.

There is a £200 fine for non-compliance. However, there is currently no requirement to wear one in places such as cinemas, theatres, pubs and restaurants, where people are most likely to mingle.

The rules have been widely mocked for their inconsistency, and many remain confused. As it stands, however, health secretary Sajid Javid has simply said that people should be “sensible” if they are out celebrating over Christmas.

Young people friends bump their elbows instead of greeting with a hug - Avoid the spread of coronavirus, social distance and friendship concept - Focus on right girl eye
"You put your vaxxed arm in..." (Getty Images)

Asked if people should take a lateral flow test before attending Christmas parties, he said: “I would.” 

Javid told Sky News: “I think people should continue to behave in the way they were planning to behave over Christmas. I don’t think there is any need to change those plans.”

There is currently no restriction on parties in private homes or venues. But with Omicron spreading fast, and travel restrictions resuming in many countries, many may be wondering whether to cancel their festivities once again, to be on the safe side.

Read more: Omicron: Doctor details key questions about new COVID-19 variant

The good news as it stands is, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said early indications suggest most Omicron cases are 'mild' and though it's too soon to know for sure, the vaccines seem to be effective against them so far. 

So if you are determined to go ahead and party this year, here are the best ways to stay safe:

Get vaccinated/get a booster

Close up of a young woman getting vaccinated
Get yourself jabbed - again. (Getty Images)

Everyone who had their second vaccine more than three months ago is now eligible for a booster jab. 

Book ASAP — many pharmacies are offering jabs too, and the government aims for all over 18s to have their booster by the end of January. 

Javid said the booster dose provides a "much higher antibody response than the primary course, so it’s more important than ever that people step up and get protected".

Read more: This cozy Christmas party will have you gathering on the porch

People can book through the NHS vaccination booking website, though eligible people to wait for an invite while the service is being updated. 

Get your flu jab too If you're eligible, as parties are a breeding ground for cold and flu germs. 

Every winter hospitals are full of flu patients, often with complications — so don't add to the pressure, get jabbed and know that nice bloke you're chatting to by the buffet isn't going to give you a virus that puts you out of action for a month.

Take a test

Close-up as a woman drips buffer solution from a plastic vial onto the lateral flow test device for Covid-19.
It doesn't take long, and you get peace of mind. (Getty Images)

If you're hosting a party, it's wise to ask guests to take a lateral flow test before they attend. 

Knowing everyone in the room has tested negative is a big relief, both for you, your guests, and anyone else they're likely to come into contact with after the party. 

Even vaccinated, people can be very ill with COVID - and Omicron looks like it's fast-spreading. It's a few minutes' mild hassle for peace of mind.

Open windows or go outside

Photo of a cheerful group of friends, at an outdoor Christmas celebration.
Take your big coat and a woolly hat. (Getty Images)

COVID-19 is airborne – so a closed room in winter, full of people talking, laughing and yelling over the music is about as good a transmission vector as you can design. 

Keep airflow moving by opening windows at both ends of the venue, keep doors open, and if possible, set up an outdoor area with a gazebo or sheltered open marquee so people can stay outside if they prefer. 

COVID is proven to be less transmissible outdoors – like smoke, it dissipates in fresh air, but indoors, it simply hangs in the atmosphere.

Wear a mask

<em>The Masked Dancer</em>, but in your house. (Getty Images)
The Masked Dancer, but in your house. (Getty Images)

If you're worried but don't want to miss out, wear a mask. It won't fully protect you but it will protect others, and a medical-grade mask will certainly help to keep you safe from COVID, colds and flu. 

Regardless of rules, it a simple act that can help to stop the spread, particularly over Christmas when people are likely to be seeing elderly and vulnerable relatives. 

Read more: How many calories are your favourite festive drinks racking up?

Don't get too drunk

Group of friends toasting at a party
They were social distancing half an hour ago. (Getty Images)

Drink is a dis-inhibitor, so the more drunk guests are, the more they'll forget the rules or recommendations. They may begin the night social distancing and standing outdoors, but a few pints in, they'll be singing into each others' faces, crammed into a karaoke booth. 

If you're hosting, ensure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options to give guests a choice, and make it easy to socially distance with seating arrangements. 

Don't kiss and hug

'It's fine, we've known each other for a full 20 minutes.' (Getty Images)
'It's fine, we've known each other for a full 20 minutes.' (Getty Images)

Social distancing means no kissing – and while that can be miserable at Christmas when mistletoe is just waiting to be maximised, and Christmas kisses and hugs are a standard form of greeting, it's a good idea to hold back for now, particularly with people whose vaccine status you don't know.

A festive elbow-bump may not be the same but if it helps to keep everyone safe and lets us celebrate Christmas together, it could be a small price to pay for a happy holidays. 

Watch: Omicron: Britain, Germany and Italy report confirmed cases

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting