By now, you’ve heard the advice that to slow the spread of coronavirus around the world, we need to practice social distancing. On 17/3/2020, our Prime Minister announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Malaysians to avoid gathering in groups of more than 30 people, to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits, and not to go out to restaurants or bars.
The closures are a way to enforce social distancing, a crucially important public health intervention that can help stop coronavirus transmission. Best practice requires maintaining at least a six-foot distance between yourself and others. What do you, as a responsible, socially conscious human being? Are you breaking the social contract by going back to your village or are you planning on a trip with your family?
I’M OKAY! I CAN GO OUT FOR A WHILE!
Choosing to stay home as much as possible, may be inconvenient, but you are helping your fellow human. By staying at home you are avoiding the risk of transmitting and getting yourself infected as well. SO, what can you do?
Do’s and don’ts of social distancing
If this all still sounds pretty vague, here are the do’s and don’ts of social distancing:
- Do avoid close contact. COVID-19 spreads primarily through person-to-person contact, via respiratory(air) droplets formed when a sick person coughs or sneezes.
- Don’t greet people with a handshake or hug. In fact, keep about six feet of space between yourself and others as often as possible.You don’t need to measure the distance, just keep a safe length between 2 people.
- Do avoid large crowds. Stay away from gatherings of crowds of more than 30 people, especially if the space has limited air circulation. Such as weddings, meetings or even funerals.
- Don’t dismiss it since you think it sounds unreasonable. Social distancing isn’t the same as being isolated or quarantined in your home 24/7. It just means making a purposeful effort to modify your social behaviours and reduce your contact with other people as much as possible. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE IN FULL LOCKDOWN! You won’t be able to do anything.
Speaking of quarantine, if you’ve come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms, it’s highly recommended that you self-quarantine.
Also read: COVID-19
Why is social distancing so effective?
It is known that if that one person is infected with the new coronavirus, he or she will infect another 3.3 people, on average. The higher that number (known as the reproductive number), the faster a virus spreads. SCARY!
Several factors influence the reproductive number, including how contagious the virus is, how susceptible people are, how many times people interact with each other, and how long those interactions last. Social distancing main aims are to reduce the last two items on that list, which would in turn reduce the reproductive number and slow a disease’s spread.
How is social distancing different from self-quarantine and self-isolation?
Self-quarantine and self-isolation are specific forms of social distancing.
Self-quarantine is when you feel fine but separate yourself from others because there’s a high chance you’ve been exposed to a disease.
Self-isolation is when you may have symptoms and don’t want to get others sick. In the case of COVID-19, both are supposed to last about 14 days, enough time for any potential symptoms to manifest in an environment where the virus can’t infect other people.
I still have to go to work or school. What do I do?
There are certain measures that organizations can take in places where community spread of a virus is minimal to moderate, as per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- For now, all schools/IPTA/IPTS are ordered to close
- Increase the physical space between workers.
- Stagger work schedules.
- Reduce workplace social contacts. Limit in-person meetings, lunch meet-ups, staff meetings and after-work hangouts.
So, what do I do?
We humans are social creatures. Being isolated can have negative long-term consequences for physical, mental and cognitive health. However, right now, public health officials are rightly focused on the more immediate threat of the virus. We have to keep in mind regarding the long term effect as well. Each one of us can play a huge part! Take responsibility to ensure the chain of virus spreading is broken.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to alleviate that social isolation and look out for vulnerable members of the community.
People holed up at home can video and phone chat with friends and loved ones. You don’t really need to “balik kampung” to ensure your family members are safe. The technology now is just at your fingertips! They can offer support verbally or actively, by sharing contact information. You can also drop food or goods off to neighbours who might not be able to go out themselves.
Instead of doing groups for irrelevant topics, we can send out a group text offering to pick up items from the store for them. Lesser people in the stores equivalent to lesser transmission.
In other words, it’s not just sick people, old people, and others whose health makes them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus that need to avoid social contact in large groups. Everybody has to avoid social contact. Because even if you’re healthy and feel fine, you might be carrying the virus and spreading it in large groups or might contract it and spread it elsewhere.
You are given an opportunity to stay home and create the long lost bond with your family. Put down your tech gadgets and use the time wisely!
STAY HOME AND BE SAFE!
Next read: KNOW YOUR MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT COVID-19!