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Is A Birthday Or Baptismal Party Considered Mass Gathering?
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  • After the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as a pandemic, the Philippines is now under Code Red Sub-level 2, which means community transmission of the disease is ongoing.

    The National Capital Region (NCR) is now under community quarantine. Classes are suspended, as well as land, air, and sea travel to and from Metro Manila. Mass gatherings are also prohibited. (Read more about community quarantine here.)

    Aside from practicing strict and proper hygiene, another effective way to stop or slow down the spread of infection is social distancing. It’s why school has been suspended, working from home is encouraged, and the strict travel measures. Staying home and away from large crowds makes one less likely to be exposed to any possible infection.

    Still, as President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned in his address last March 12, 2020, life shouldn’t stop even during these trying times. But what if it is your baby’s christening or birthday party, even just a few family and friends? Will they fall under mass gatherings?

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    Technically, yes. The Code Red Sub-level 2 guidelines by the Department of Health (DOH) defines mass gatherings — whether planned or spontaneous — as “events where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event.” These are concerts, large seminars, conventions, sporting events, and social gatherings (your party even with few family and friends is a possible candidate here).

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    There is no minimum number for social gatherings, but according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, while people think 50 guests are few, "if you are cramped up in a closed space, that already constitutes as a mass gathering,” he said in a press briefing on March 13, 2020.

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    Should you still push through with your child’s baptism or birthday party?

    The main purpose of banning social gatherings is social distancing — if people can’t stay home, they should be at least one meter apart, which may mean downsizing celebrations such as weddings, baptisms, and birthdays, as suggested by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez.

     

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    The DOH posted guidelines for hosting an event or gatherings on March 5, before the community quarantine was announced. If you’re hosting a gathering, make sure you provide:

    • Soap and water for people to be able to wash their hands, or hand sanitizer (at least 70% alcohol) so guests can practice hand hygiene.
    • Trash cans for tissue, disposable cup, and other items.
    • On-site medical assessment team that can screen individuals who may be sick.

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    We asked moms from the Smart Parenting Village what their take is on holding celebrations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s different for every case, and it’s not just about the money spent on downpayments. Here is what they have to say (edited and condensed for clarity).

    Going ahead with party but implementing all safety precautions

    Tuloy po kami this March. Laguna po kami. Ang mahirap lang ay yung ibang mga kamag-anak namin di ata makakapunta. Gusto na namin mairaos yung seventh birthday ng anak ko. Ngayon lang kasi siya magse-celebrate. — Mommy Camille

    Our son will have his dedication and reception party this March. We will continue it since sa church lang naman ang venue pati yung reception. Pili lang din naman yung mga invited at malalapit lang sa church nakatira. We will implement precautions na bawal muna ang beso at shake hands and bawal din muna panggigilan si baby. — Mommy Maan

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    My baby will celebrate his 1st birthday in April. Everything has been planned and paid for already, and there’s a no-refund policy. So, we will still push through with the party. It is a private venue, and we’re planning to check our guests’ temperature and provide alcohol to sanitize their hands. I’m also thinking of giving them customized face masks, which will also serve as one of their souvenirs from the party. — Mommy EJ

    Binyag ng baby ko this month, and we will push through. I created a Facebook event for my baby’s baptism and posted precautionary measures para mabasa ng mga guests namin. May ilang nag-message saying na hindi na sila sure kung makakapunta, and that’s totally okay. Alcohol-based sanitizers will be available for use sa venue, and we’re implementing a no-touch policy. — Mommy Gecca

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    Downgrading the party celebrations

    My baby will celebrate her first birthday this March, but my husband and I decided to hold an intimate celebration with just both families at home. I’m also planning to bake cookies for souvenirs and just set up my daughter’s playroom so the kids can play. — Mommy Lea

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    My son’s birthday is this March. We were planning for a party but decided to celebrate it with the family. No other visitors. Prevention is better than cure. — Mommy Psalm

    My son’s first birthday is in March. We are also victims of the Taal Volcano eruption. Extravagance is a bit off these days. But my son is our only child, and I can’t let his birthday pass without any celebration. We will have an intimate dinner for 35 guests, just his godparents and our immediate families. He will miss the party clowns or games, but if he asks about it in the future, I’ll tell him he was surrounded by the people who love him on his first birthday. —Mommy Mendoza

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    The party is canceled or moved to a later date

    My husband and I decided to cancel my son's seventh birthday this March. More than half of the people we invited could not come because they were scared. We had everything ready. We feel bad for our son, so we are planning to celebrate his party at school. — Mommy Dona

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    We canceled. It’s what little help we can do para ‘di mag-spread ang virus. I also don’t want my guest to feel na “punta tayo kasi nakakahiya, then praning na praning all throughout ng party.” — Mommy Eish

    My daughter is getting baptized this March, but we decided to cancel it. I already paid 50% of the total bill. Good thing, the caterer we hired is also a mom and knows the possible dangers involved should we push through with the event. — Mommy Cams

    “My son’s birthday party is supposed to be in March. For the safety of everyone, kinansel na namin. Baka may magkasakit pa and masisi pa kami, or worst, baka baby namin yung magkasakit. We are planning to have food delivered at home na lang para sa family lang on the day. But I’m planning to re-schedule the party na sakto sa 13th monthsary ni baby, so parang birthday na rin niya. It’s okay naman to delay the party, at least hindi kami kakaba-kaba.” —Mommy Chezka

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