Although there are no guarantees, in this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts say that hand washing, social distancing, and, in general, limiting each individual’s potential exposure to infectious agents are useful tools for limiting the spread of viruses.
Since the start of the new coronavirus outbreak, emphasis has been placed on frequent handwashing with soap under running water or hand sanitizers as well as social distancing for the general population and social isolation for those who have, or who live with someone who has, COVID-19.
Research suggests that the best strategy for minimising the toll of the new coronavirus involves widespread and extended social distancing. It remains the only viable option for stopping the pandemic.
But social distancing is much more than keeping at least three metres from the next person. A public health expert at the Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Professor Tanimola Akande, said social distance entails individuals also avoiding sharing personal effects like handkerchief, pillows and bedding, particularly with those on quarantine or people sneezing or coughing.
Although much is still unknown about the virus, the medical community believes that it spreads when a person with the condition coughs or sneezes particles that carry the virus into the air. The virus may also transmit from surfaces to people through touch.
The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces. Scientists found it 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.
The research, which involved scientists from the United States, France, China, and Hong Kong to understanding how quickly SARS-CoV-2 might spread was in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Professor Akande said that social distancing also included not visiting people who are bereaved, sick persons or hospitals as well as avoiding crowded areas and everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting such as walls and railings.
He added even if unwell, “you can call your doctor and get on the phone prescription, it is better especially now.”
Dr Bamidele Mutiu, a consultant, microbiologist, infectious diseases outbreak response. Lagos State Ministry of Health, said social distancing is in phases and stages to reduce or break the spread of an infectious disease.
He declared that maintaining a social distance starts with avoiding handshaking, including kissing or hugging.
Dr Mutiu said part of social distancing to avoid contracting COVID-19, include reducing visits to friends and relatives to the minimum possible.
According to him: “Partying, sporting events, public festivals, clubbings, all of these should be reduced to the minimum. That is a particular level of social distancing, but when there is a total lockdown, it will include people not even leaving their homes or allowing visitors to their homes to ensure the transmission of an infectious disease is broken.”
Different governments have responded in different ways to the COVID-19 pandemic, placing varying restrictions on the movement of people within countries or entering countries.
The U.K. government began with a policy of mitigation, aiming to protect the people most vulnerable to COVID-19: people over the age of 70 and people with underlying health conditions, including anyone who receives seasonal flu vaccines.
Nigeria is also inching towards lockdown to protect individuals from COVID-19, its land borders are closed for four weeks, federal civil servants ordered to work from home, and ban placed on large political, social and religious gatherings.
Social distancing for the general population and social isolation for those who have, or who live with someone who has COVID-19 aims to minimise the spread of the virus until an effective vaccine can be produced. An effective vaccine will take at least 18 months.
It relies on stringent, long-term, nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and isolation. This is because any relaxation of these before a vaccine is developed would result in a large second outbreak, given that fewer people would have developed an immunity.
However, delayed implementation and poor compliance can reduce its effectiveness.
Even if social distancing is useful in stopping the spread of disease, people can still experience negative emotional and psychological effects, such as increased stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.
This, however, can be counteracted by seeking out information from credible sources, informing care providers, employers, and their personal support networks about their concerns and using technology to stay connected with friends and loved ones, including having video calls for “face-to-face” interactions.
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