There is only one advice we can rely on right now – and it justifies what most countries are doing to tackle the coronavirus.
The novel coronavirus, technically known as COVID-19, is rapidly changing life as we know it. The respiratory disease, caused by a never-before-seen coronavirus, has upended life across the globe, shutting down entire countries in a matter of months and bringing the economy to a screeching halt.
The disease has affected more than 860,000 people worldwide, with fatalities crossing 40,000. The fact that there is no confirmed cure or vaccine for COVID – 19 is one of the reasons for increasing anxiety and fear across the globe.
What hasn’t helped in this situation is the stress of keeping up with changing advice – medical and scientific, of how to stay safe and reduce the risk of contracting the virus. As scientists race to learn more, there is a new report every day, which mostly always contradicts others.
- Face Masks – The U.S. Surgeon General and W.H.O. have repeatedly said that masks are not effective at preventing COVID -19 spread. Various health officials around the world have repeated this, reiterating that face masks are unnecessary for healthy individuals.However, new studies prove that for uninfected individuals, the mask prevents airborne virus particles being inhaled from the outside while for the infected, masks trap virus particles on the inside, preventing the virus particles becoming airborne.George Gao, Director-General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, is that people aren’t wearing masks. “Droplets play a very important role—you’ve got to wear a mask because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people are asymptomatic. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.” he said.
- Weather – While at the beginning of the outbreak there were several studies suggesting that the virus cannot thrive in hot and humid weather, scientists now are saying that there is no evidence showing that the virus’s incubation is affected by the weather. Singapore is a case-study in support of this, where 926 total cases have so far been reported during it’s hot and sticky summer months.
- Age-wise Discrimination – While the young and healthy initially shrugged off the risks of the disease, saying that it was an ‘old-people’ virus, the W.H.O Chief recently warned youngsters that they are not immune to coronavirus. Older people were initially said to be at larger risk because of underlying health problems, however, many deaths recorded just this last week were of healthy children aged 12,13 and 14. In Australia, the virus was discovered to be more prevalent in the 20’ to 30’s age group.
- Fatality rate – There is no single fatality rate – it keeps changing according to the exponential cases reported from different parts of the world. Early estimates, from the WHO, put the rate above 3% based on the number of deaths in comparison to the number of cases. However, limited testing across the world, along with the mild symptoms that many infected experience, suggests there may be many people currently undiagnosed with COVID -19.
- Airborne or Not – Initially, it was said that airborne spread is not believed to be a major driver of transmission. However, recent reports suggest the opposite, stating that the coronavirus can live on surfaces like plastic and steel for three days and linger in the air for hours. Also initially said to be able to travel up to 6 feet, an MIT study now suggests that a very ‘robust’ sneeze could carry saliva droplets up to 27 feet. The study states that a sneeze consists of several phases of rocky wind that can carry droplets forward continuously. Factors such as humidity can help the vapour linger in the air after the person who sneezed has left a room. With limited knowledge available about the new COVID-19, scientists all over the world agree that it is too soon to reach any definitive conclusions regarding the virus and its transmission. We can expect new discoveries and changing studies to add to our precautions.
What then, is the only fail-safe advice to keep the coronavirus at bay?
Social distancing is the single most essential strategy for the prevention of coronavirus. As the only method assured to limit contact of uninfected and infected people, social distancing is proving effective to help “flatten the curve”.
What does it mean to flatten the curve?
The idea of “flattening the curve” relates to the way governments and citizens can take measures to prevent a huge spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.
The critical idea at the heart of the saying is to reduce the load on the health care system by taking a number of steps to limit interactions with other people.
The sharp curve denotes how a pandemic caused by an infectious disease — like COVID-19 — would spread through a community with no intervention strategies in place. Without mitigating the spread, cases would rise rapidly, peaking when the community is almost wholly infected, before dropping back down.
The second curve is much flatter and denotes a pandemic scenario where there has been an intervention.
Right now, the only known way for you to stay safe, and in turn, save the world, is to stay in and maintain safe distances. And of course, washing your hands goes without saying.
The lockdown/curfew/social-gathering bans all over the world may seem extreme, but they are backed by hard data. That’s why nearly half the world’s population movements are restricted, and that’s why you should stay home.