Thiruvananthapuram: Malayalees should celebrate the first Onam since the COVID-19 outbreak with care at home, Health Minister K K Shailaja has said.
"Our country and cities are not free of COVID. It can spread from anyone. Everyone should exercise care while going to shops to buy things or when visiting relatives," she said.
Everyone should pay heed to the health message of 'this Onam with soap, mask and gap.' They should wear masks properly, wash their hands often with soap and maintain a gap to ensure social distancing.
Crowding at shops and markets should be avoided. Shops should have hand sanitizers or hand washing facilities. Shopkeepers must maintain vigil to ensure there is social distancing. People should wash their hands with soap as soon as they return home from the shop, the minister said.
Shailaja said gatherings of relatives and friends should be avoided as far as possible in view of the COVID pandemic. All such gathering could increase the chance of the disease spreading. Group meetings should not be allowed for any reason. Ensure anyone visiting home is wearing a mask. They should wash their hands with soap and water immediately after they enter.
Avoid shaking hands and hugging. Do not touch elderly people or stand close to them while having a conversation. This show of affection could push the elderly into suffering, as they are at high risk of contracting the disease, which could make them critically ill.
Visitors should not caress, cuddle, lift or kiss children. Avoid travel with relatives. While serving the Onam feast, lay the plantain leaves by ensuring social distancing. It is better not to talk as one has to remove the mask while eating. After eating, wash glasses and utensils with soap and water.
Guard against other Onam ailments
Take adequate precautions to prevent ailments common during the Onam season, as that would help avoid a visit to the hospital when COVID is spreading rapidly. Jaundice, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea are the most common diseases during Onam. A little care can help prevent such diseases.
Wash food items, vegetables properly
The Onam feast is one of the most important aspects of the festival. Therefore, care must be taken from the moment preparations for the feast start. Prepare enough food that will be sufficient for the day. Avoid the tendency to eat the leftover in the following days. Even when eaten hot, the body may not always accept it.
Food items such as rice and vegetables should be washed only with clean water. Cook only after washing the items thoroughly. Also, vegetables should be washed before cutting. If they are washed after cutting, toxins and germs could get into the fleshy part of vegetable. If you buy already-cut vegetables, wash them thoroughly with clean water. You can add a little vinegar to water to remove the toxins from vegetables while washing.
Cooks should maintain personal hygiene. Keep the food always covered. Plantain leaves should be washed thoroughly before the feast is served. Wash your hands well with soap and water before starting to eat. Also, drink only boiled water.
Catering and community feasts
Caterers, hotels and those organising community feasts should be extra careful in view of the COVID outbreak. They should follow the guidelines of the Department of Food Safety. Community feasts should be kept to a minimum. COVID-19 protocol must be followed at all times. It is a better idea to give parcels instead of sitting together and eating.
Do not cook food a day before the feast. Prepare food just before or during the feast and use it as soon as possible after cooking. That food can cause health problems even if it is had at night on the same day. Do not eat it if its smell, colour or taste changes.
If you fall sick
If anyone experience symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, or nausea, then all those who had the feast with them should be careful. In case of diarrhoea or vomiting, salted rice porridge (kanji) and lemon water can be given.
It is good to have ORS solution at home. If its is not there, then prepare a solution by adding six teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt to one litre of water that is boiled and cooled, and give it as needed.
Pay extra attention to kids with diarrhoea and vomiting.
If the treatment with liquids and solutions do not make you feel better or if you feel any other discomfort, then seek treatment at the nearest health centre as soon as possible.
In case of fever or COVID-like symptoms after Onam, inform the health workers immediately. The whole family should then be monitored. By remaining careful, we can ensure we don’t face such a situation. In other words, 'this Onam with soap, mask and gap'.