HOW time flies! It’s already December. The year is about to end. If the downward trend of Covid-19 cases continues, we will most likely have a joyful Christmas celebration. I’m sure families are missing the yearly gatherings and reunions. I miss the traditional Simbang Gabi which I only attended virtually last year.

Face-to-face Christmas parties will be back too. The Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MACCII) Directors decided to do it in person, but with restrictions of course, like having it in an open-air venue. It promises to be an exciting one as we miss each other’s company so much.

Slowly we are going back to our old routines. The Saturday traffic at the NLEX-SCTEX Mabiga link has started to build up, an indication of more trips to Subic and Baguio. Two Sundays ago, I went to SM Pampanga to fetch my son and buy groceries. There was monstrous traffic along JASA and at the mall entrances, something that I have not seen since the lockdown last year.

As we celebrate the holidays and go back to our normal activities, we should not forget that the virus is still around, looking for the next unprotected and unsuspecting victim. We should not let our guards down especially now that there is a new variant of concern called Omicron.

The excitement of people to be “free” is understandable. But I cannot fathom the over-confidence of some, acting as if the virus is already gone. At SM Clark, I saw families bringing kids below 12 years old and even infants in strollers. How would you protect a baby from the virus when it cannot even wear a facemask?

At present, the national vaccination rate nationwide as of this writing is at 31 percent which is still way below the 70 percent target to achieve herd immunity. Some cities like Mabalacat have achieved a very high rate of 96 percent for the first dose and 76 percent for fully vaccinated ones. Vaccination for 12 to 17 years old is also ongoing. But some places are lagging behind.

Even if we have 70 percent vaccination rate, there is a possibility that there will be a spike in Covid-19 cases again. At present, there is a surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe. In the Netherlands, 85 percent of their adult population has been fully vaccinated, yet they are now experiencing a spike in cases forcing the government to re-impose a partial lockdown. One report I read says that the biggest increase in Covid-19 cases was among children aged 4-12.

The DOH has already cautioned people not to bring kids 11 and below to crowded places like malls. President Duterte urged LGU’s to come up with ordinances to regulate the movement of kids in these age groups. In NCR, the Metro Manila Council has submitted a resolution asking the National Government to restrict the mobility and outdoor activities of minors aged 12 and below in the metropolis.

Let us celebrate the Christmas season with caution.