WHO says stay at home, limit holiday season events midst COVID-19 surge

FILE PHOTO: A patient arrives outside Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization’s regional branch for the Americas recommended postponing or reducing mass gatherings during the approaching holiday season as cases surge again in many countries.

“This is not the time to be hosting any large gatherings ... during a pandemic, there is no such thing as a risk-free holiday season,” the Pan American Health Organization’s Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said in a briefing

Religious services should be held outdoors whenever possible or limited in size, he said.

With every gathering, every shopping trip and every travel plan increasing the chances of spreading the virus, the safest option for everyone is to stay at home, Barbosa said.

The organization does not recommend relying on laboratory tests for travelers because they do not guarantee safe travel or eliminate the risks related to infected travelers, he said.

The Americas reported more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, the highest weekly number since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said on Wednesday.

The rapid surge of infections in the United States continues, and cases have accelerated in countries of North, Central and South America, it said.

In Canada, infections are rising particularly among the elderly and indigenous communities, Barbosa said.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Jonathan Oatis