No more silent nights: DOH OKs caroling
MANILA, Philippines — Songs of Christmas cheer may again be heard in the streets after the Department of Health (DOH) gave the green light to caroling, subject to certain rules.
The singers may sound muffled, for example, since they are still required to wear face masks and face shields.
In a television interview on Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said caroling would be allowed as long as minimum health protocols are observed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“[The singers must] remember that it has to be done only outdoors and face masks and face shields should be worn,” Vergeire said, adding: “The public needs to understand that when we sing, respiratory particles are emitted. This means that the risk is high.”
Later in a statement, the DOH spokesperson explained that under alert level 2, a more relaxed status which took effect in Metro Manila last Friday, “there are no explicit provisions against caroling, although (local governments) are encouraged to develop specific guidelines based on their respective local settings.”
She stressed the risks that come with “voice-related activities” such as caroling, especially when high-risk members of the population, such as the elderly, are involved.
“Risks may be mitigated if conducted outdoors and outside the household, with appropriate distance from observers, at smaller groups to avoid crowding, and not including the vulnerable and older seniors,” Vergeire said.
The DOH approval is expected to be welcomed especially by Filipinos who look forward to the longtime Yuletide tradition dating back the Spanish colonial period. Together with big, indoor Christmas parties, caroling was banned last year.
According to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, “respiratory particles, including droplets and aerosols, exist in human exhaled breath” and “because airflow is a key element of all singing styles, one might expect the same risk of disease transmission among various singing styles and genres.”
Another study conducted by researchers from Lund University in Sweden and published in September last year in the Aerosol Science and Technology Journal showed that singing—particularly loud and consonants-rich numbers —spreads a large amount of aerosol particles and droplets in the surrounding air.
The study found that loud singing can have a median emission rate of 980 particles per second, which is more than thrice that of normal talking, which is 270 particles per second.
But when done while wearing a face mask, the emission rate during loud singing can go down to 410 particles per second.
—WITH A REPORT FROM DEXTER CABALZA
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