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Flashback 2019: A boy lights a deya along Gopaul Extension, Diego Martin during Divali celebrations.

Although Divali is traditionally typically spent with friends and family, one pundit and epidemiologist is cautioning citizens to avoid this practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In India, the UK, USA, Canada and many other nations activities associated with Divali have been curtailed as Hindus at this time are making many sacrifices and taking personal and collective responsibility in the interest of their health and welfare,” Pundit Karmesh Sharma, a non-medical epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health said during a virtual press conference yesterday.

Sharma outlined a number of measures that can be implemented to protect against the virus during celebrations, he noted that it’s best if people avoided inviting people to their homes or accepting any such invitations themselves.

“Whilst it is tradition to invite or to be invited by family and friends or even the occasional dropping at homes in the neighbourhood be mindful, be cognizant and avoid such gatherings with persons coming from outside your household especially as this can greatly increase risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19,” he said.

Technical director of the ministry’s Epidemiology Division Dr Avery Hinds said the movement and interactions between households has been regarded as one of the main transmission factors within recent times

“The mixing of households- people going from one household to another, even for small gatherings has been one of the recurring features that has been reported when the question has been asked, where have you been, who you’ve interacted with over the previous 14 days,” he said.

Sharma also warned that hand sanitizers should not be used before lighting deyas, candles or fireworks on the night as they contain alcohol and can result in burns. He said to instead wash hands with soap and water.

He also advised that proper hygienic practices be maintained when giving out food or sweets.

While there isn’t any data that suggests COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, it can be transmitted via the packaging used to contain it.

He believes the auspicious night can be enjoyed- but cautiously.

“While the pandemic has changed a lot of things- and it has- we must not let it change our spirit. We will still celebrate Divali and have fun with reduced risk,” he said.