Like everything in 2020, the holiday season will be different this year. Christmas gatherings will be smaller and spread over only four days which has caused some confusion among Quebecers.

Many people wonder why they are not allowed to celebrate both Christmas and New Year's Day, finding the days of festivities permitted by the Legault government insufficiently satisfying.

Narcity Québec spoke with microbiologist-infectiologist Dr. Caroline Quach on the subject.

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Why only allow family gatherings from December 24 to 27?

"It's pretty easy," said Dr. Quach.

She said that that during these four days of festivities, "we know that there will be transmission of COVID-19, even if we are careful."

"The incubation period for the virus is five to six days. So what we want is that after the last gathering, we want to have at least a week afterwards to be confined to our homes."

The decision behind this moral contract "comes at the right time" with the return to work and school the week of 4 January.

"Teenagers even have an extra week, until the 11th, to give themselves even more leeway," she said and that a quarantine usually lasts for 14 days.

"We know there are a lot of people in there who won't develop symptoms, but they could still transmit the virus," Quach added.

Could Quebec have gone without Christmas gatherings?

"Clearly," she said without hesitation.

"People still need to see each other, and if we hadn't had these festivities framed, it would have been done anyhow," Dr. Quach admitted.

Even if the government had prevented the gatherings, as is the case in Ontario, "people would still have seen each other" at Christmas and on New Year's Day, she said.

"It's been the same story all along," the microbiologist and infectious disease specialist conceded. "Some people don't care and others are extremely cautious. "

However, the risks taken by the recalcitrant may rub off on others around them who may be hospitalized, she pointed out. "That doesn't work!"

"Right now, if the province continues to have 1,000 infections a day, community contamination and throwing the Christmas holidays in there, there's going to be a resurgence of cases," exclaimed Dr. Quach.

What are some guidelines to follow if you're going to a holiday gathering? 

The first thing is to ask yourself, before going to a party: "have I had any risky behaviour in the last seven days?"

"It's like the first time you sleep with someone and you ask yourself 'do I use the condom or not?'", she said as an example.

"If you've had risky behaviour, maybe it would be worth not going. This is not the year to say, 'Ah, I'm a little tired, I have a headache, I have a fever, I'll take a Tylenol,'" Quach added.

Dr. Quach also suggests wearing a mask as much as possible and keeping a reasonable distance between people, although "some people won't."

"It's about being responsible and not getting your head in the sand," she said.

She admits that she has no problem with gifts, "as long as you wash your hands before wrapping and unwrapping them."

As for hugs, "you can give them to each other", but as little as possible.


This article was originally published in French on Narcity Québec.


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