The world has not seen anything quite like this global epidemic, not even the swine flu, back in 2009. According to experts, this outbreak cannot be stopped, or for countries like Italy, even slowed. However, for nations like ours, where the disease is still not very widespread, it can benefit greatly from measures like social distancing.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is basically limiting human contact, and having a distance of at least six feet, between you and other people. Because coronavirus is an airborne virus, the idea is to limit the transmission rate through less sharing of air. For this reason, it is better now to work from home, skip social gatherings, avoid crowded public places including public transport and limit non-essential travel.
The aim of social distancing is to reduce the risk of exposure of people to the virus and minimize their interaction with other people. The goal is to do this while maintaining the daily necessary activities without endangering anyone. Not only does it diminish the risk of someone catching the virus, but it also decreases the odds of transmitting to others if contracted.
Who needs social distancing the most?
Social distancing is essential especially for those most at risk of acquiring infection—like the elderly, cancer patients, immunocompromised, or people on medication, like steroids. Moreover, people with chronic lung diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, pregnant women and neurological problems are at high risk.
High risk means that if the aforementioned lot gets coronavirus, they are likely to have a severe form of the disease, as their immune system cannot effectively battle the bug. Therefore, for high-risk people, social distancing is akin to saving their life.
Are young adults safe?
The important thing to realize is that this is not just about one individual’s health. This is about the health of a lot of people. Yes, the elderly are at higher risk, but the young adults are by no means, immune.
The virus has an incubation period of 14 days, which means that it takes 14 days to show symptoms, and during those 14 days, it can be transmitted to other people. Therefore, you may pass on the virus to other people, including the members of your own family, before you realize you are sick.
Infected people, often don’t realize that they are carriers, and they can spread the virus, especially in the early course of the disease. While it may be tough, especially on the younger generation, to practice social distancing it is a great public health imperative.
Cutting down on the number of gatherings, and social outings at this point in time are very important for a country like ours. Apart from the efforts of the public health officials, a lot of responsibility also lies on the people to help control the spread.
How to stay safe?
It is okay to step out of the house for some essential trips, like shopping for groceries or medication etc. but avoid being in close contact with people. It is better to go at a time when the stores would not be crowded, like early morning or a little late at night.
Maintain a distance of at least six feet. When you leave your home, ensure that you are wearing a face mask and that you are disinfecting your hands often with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
Most importantly, practice frequent hand washing, especially when you come in from the outdoors, are about to eat, or before coming in contact with the vulnerable population.
An epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Caitlin Rivers also recommends not using the cell-phone during your shopping trips as it could be a transmitting surface. If you are at risk, then avoid stepping out altogether. With plenty of places offering home delivery, order what you need through an online service.
Visiting other family members
Yes, we are a nation that prides itself on being amazing hosts but now is not a time to be visiting family, especially the sick family members. If proper measures are not taken, and social distancing is not maintained, you could be doing so much damage, not only to yourself, and your family members but also the country at large.
Coronavirus in Pakistan
The latest reports state that currently, there are about 709 suspected cases, and 646 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country. The trajectory with which the number of cases in Pakistan is rising is quite worrisome.
Countries that are battling a high patient turnover, like Italy, did not take social distancing seriously as well, and we could be following their footsteps if we are not careful.
The important thing to realize is that our country has limited resources, and in case of an epidemic, our healthcare system would collapse. It lies upon us, the general public, to contain this virus, and play our role in preventing mass casualties.
The army is now stepping in to assist the civilian government to combat the corona crisis. It will take a joint effort to defeat this pandemic, and it is very important that the public plays its role in social distancing to help contain this virus.
In case of suspicious symptoms, do reach out to the test centers set up by the government of Pakistan, and quarantine yourself until confirmation of disease.