There are many things we can do to prevent the spread of SARS CoV 2, the virus that causes Covid-19. This includes washing hands, coughing into our elbows, avoiding touching our faces, staying home if we’re feeling sick and social distancing.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is purposefully reducing close contact between people, including remaining out of “congregate settings” as much as possible, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance of about six feet (two metres) from others.
So, it is physical distancing and using other means to continue social contact. There are many ways you can connect with friends: phone calls, text messages, emails and video chats.
Just like social distancing is important for our health, we can try alternative ways to stay connected to take care of emotional health.
How important is social distancing in averting the spread of Covid-19?
Social distancing is crucial to preventing the spread of contagious illnesses such as Covid-19. This virus can spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact.
By minimising close contact, we reduce chances of catching the virus and spreading it to our loved ones and within the community.
Social distancing is important for all of us, but those of us who are at a higher risk of serious complications should be especially cautious.
People who are at high risk of complications include adults who are 65 years and above in age, people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
If there are high surges in the number of Covid-19 cases all at once, healthcare systems and resources could potentially become overwhelmed.
Efforts that help stop this disease from spreading rapidly — like social distancing — help to keep the number of people who are sick at one time as low as possible.
What is the best time to practice social distancing?
Begin social distancing before an illness like Covid-19 becomes widespread.
At the workplace, when possible, keep about three feet of distance between yourself and others.
It’s also important to practise other preventive measures such as washing hands, avoiding touching your face, coughing into your elbow and staying home if you feel sick.
Depending on your job and your community’s situation, working from home may be an option.
How long should those exposed to the virus self-quarantine?
People who have been exposed to the SARS CoV 2 and who are at risk of coming down with Covid-19 might practise self-quarantine. Self-quarantine lasts 14 days. Two weeks provides enough time for them to know whether or not they will become ill and be contagious to other people.
You might be asked to practise self-quarantine if you have recently returned from travelling to a part of the country or the world where the disease is spreading rapidly, or if you have knowingly been exposed to an infected person.
What does self-quarantine involve?
• Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently
• Not sharing things like towels and utensils
• Staying at home
• Not having visitors
• Staying at least six feet away from other people in your household
Whom should be isolated?
For people who are confirmed to have Covid-19, isolation is appropriate.
Isolation is a healthcare term that means keeping people who are infected with a contagious illness away from those who are not infected.
Isolation can take place at home or at a hospital or care facility.
Special personal protective equipment will be used to care for these patients in healthcare settings.
If a patient has mild symptoms they will be asked to put on a mask and self-isolate at home.
If the symptoms require hospital admission then they will be isolated at a designated healthcare facility.
The writer is associate professor, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.