COVID-19 and the holidays: How to reduce your risk

Tips to help keep you and your family safe.

The young boy is sliding on a snow tube in a park during winter holidays in Yerevan, Armenia.
08 November 2022

Planning a trip or end-of-year celebration? For many people, this time of year is associated with gatherings of family and friends, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic raises many questions on how to stay safe. Whatever you have planned for the coming weeks, we hope these tips help you and your family enjoy a healthy holiday season.

Be risk aware

The level of risk depends greatly on where you live. Follow guidance from your local authorities and stay informed about COVID-19 transmission in your area. 

Different activities also carry different risks. For any in-person gatherings, consider whether others in the group are vaccinated, if they take precautions, and where and for how long you’ll be meeting – meeting outside and for shorter periods of time have less risk.

Get vaccinated

WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been shown to be highly effective at protecting against severe illness and death from COVID-19. The vaccines also help to protect those around you. No vaccine offers 100 per cent protection though, so it is important to continue taking precautions to protect yourself and others even once vaccinated. This includes wearing a mask, physical distancing and regular handwashing.

According to WHO, the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines wanes around 4-6 months after the primary series of vaccination has been completed. Taking a booster to strengthen your protection against serious disease is recommended if it is available to you. 

Make sure you and your family are also up to date with your routine vaccinations as recommended by your local health authorities, such as the seasonal flu vaccine.

 Read: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines

If you are feeling ill, stay home

Do not attend or host gatherings if you or someone in your family is sick or has symptoms of COVID-19. Stay home, seek medical advice and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

 Read: What to do if you or your child gets sick with COVID-19 at home

Consider any travel plans carefully

All travel comes with some risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Before you travel, check if COVID-19 is spreading in your local area and in any of the places you are going.

Do not travel if you or your family are sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19. Unvaccinated family members who are at higher risk for severe illness (older family members, those with underlying medical conditions) should consider postponing all travel until they are fully vaccinated.

If you do choose to travel, try to avoid travelling at peak times. Check for any travel restrictions in your local area, and all places you’re planning to visit. Keep in mind, these policies may change with little advance notice and your travel plans may be disrupted. If flying, carefully check the travel requirements of your airline carrier.

When you return home, follow any recommendations or requirements from your national or local authorities, and continue to follow all the key precautions – including watching for any symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical advice if they develop.

Take precautions while in public 

Here are some of the key precautions you and your family can take when outside:

  • Wear masks when in public places where COVID-19 is widespread and physical distancing is not possible
     Read more on mask tips for families
  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
      Read more on handwashing
  • Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth)
  • Seek medical care early if you or your child have any symptoms of COVID-19

Be smart about large gatherings

Crowded, confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and mass gatherings such as concerts, events and parties can pose greater risk. Outdoor gatherings or settings that are well ventilated are safer.

If you are planning a get together with friends and family from different households, consider taking extra precautions before you meet, such as taking a COVID-19 test if available.

Consider the needs of your loved ones

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for everyone and many people will be worried about being around groups of people, even their loved ones. If possible, try reaching out to your friends and relatives before meeting to see how they are doing and to talk about any concerns.

Consider postponing any visits to unvaccinated family members or friends who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (older family members, grandparents, family members with underlying medical conditions) or taking extra precautions when around them. This may include wearing a mask, regardless of your vaccination status.

Every family has to take decisions based on their own situation. Take the time to explain decisions and any rules with your children – and why it matters.

 Read: How to talk to your friends and family about COVID-19 vaccines

Remember, our individual decisions don’t just affect us, but the people around us as well. Stay safe and we wish you and your family happy and healthy holidays!