The world is watching with growing alarm as the death toll and numbers of people infected by covid-19 grows.
According to Worldometer, more than 245,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and over 10,000 have died, with cases and deaths outside China far exceeding those in the country where the outbreak began.
The virus is affecting 182 countries around the world and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan).
Governments around the world are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are all looking to them for plans to slow the spread of the virus. These plans may vary from country to country but one thing remains the same, we ALL have a responsibility to follow the recommended personal-level actions.
Good hygiene, staying at home and social distancing are central aspects of plans to limit the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organisation reccommend the following measures to protect yourself.
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Sanitise! Sanitise! Sanitise!
Make sure you regularly and throughly clean frequently touched objects in your home; door handles, computer keyboards, telephones, iPads, light switches, taps, kettle – the list is endless. If possible, use a sanitizer or hot soapy water. Build a sanitising routine into your day.
If you have to go out, make sure the first thing you do as a minimum is wash your hands and face when you get home. Better still, have a shower and change your clothes.
Remember, your food shopping may be carrying the virus so wash the packets before you store them away.
The same goes for your car – sanitise handles (inside and out), steering wheel, gear lever, rear, view mirror, handbrake. Don’t assume because you have done it once, it’s virus free.
New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) stability is similar to the original SARS virus.
The NIH study attempted to mimic virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.
The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
Many people will spend the next weeks – no-one knows how many – alone in their homes, only leaving for essentials. This solitary existence which is now our reality, is a real shock to many.
While the world is in crisis, experts are saying that people can’t really over-prepare right now. Overreaction is good!
Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says that while it’s impossible to predict how each individual will react to isolation, it’s reasonable to expect some mental and emotional strain. “Our daily rituals and routines give structure to our lives,” he says. “When they’re taken away, we feel adrift.”
Joordens says that maintaining a sense of routine and pattern is key. Get out of bed and get dressed. Create a dedicated place in your home for work. Try to stick to a schedule. Use newfound free time productively.
“Think of it as an opportunity to pursue something you’ve always wanted to learn,” Joordens says. He suggests taking an online course or learning a new musical instrument. “It’s important to feel you are still accomplishing something.”
And if none of that is working, check in with friends for support. Yes, government-mandated cocooning means social isolation – we can’t get together for a beer or gather around the kitchen table for a catch-up. But it’s 2020, and everyone and their grandma has a smartphone with a video-calling app. Now is the time to reach out and speak with the people in your life. And don’t just text – call!
Social distancing and how you do it
As an individual, you can lower your risk of infection by reducing your rate of contact with other people.
Measures include working from home if possible, organising meetings via video calls rather than doing them in person and avoiding unnecessary use of public transport, says Stuart Neil at King’s College London.
Social distancing “should be approached sensibly and rationally”, says Neil. If you do have to be out and about, the World Health Organization recommends maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre between yourself and other people. It is also recommended that you avoid physical contact with others in social situations, including handshakes, hugs and kisses.
There is evidence from previous outbreaks, including the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, that social distancing can effectively limit the spread of infections. It’s not yet known exactly how the new coronavirus spreads, but similar viruses are predominantly transmitted by droplets emitted from the mouths and noses of infected people when they cough or sneeze, which can land on surfaces and people’s hands.
It is recommended to separate yourself from people you live with as much as possible. If you can’t avoid sharing a bathroom or toilet, clean these areas regularly. If you have covid-19 or suspect that you are at risk, the priority should be to avoid transmitting the disease to others, particularly if you are caring for someone vulnerable.
Fact: Coronavirus will keep spreading if people keep socialising!
“The point of overreacting, it turns out, is to overreact: to react excessively, but with reason. If you feel at least a little foolish right now, then you’re doing something right.” – Ian Bogost (contributing writer at The Atlantic and the Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology)
Featured image of a billboard in Fethiye by Steve Parsley: “The Coronavirus is not as strong as the measures you take”