What to do during Corona

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So far the number of cases in India are significantly less, given the population density and social culture of the country

In an inherently community-based culture like India where 1.3+ billion people inhabit with a relatively high population density (~460 per sq km), and inter-generational extended families are still common – the community tends to be relatively tight-knit.

Here are some steps taken by the government and what we should all be following to be safe and keep the cases to a minimum

Social Distancing

As we have seen in multiple countries across the six continents, COVID-19 has a rapid spread rate with dire repercussions. Fortunately, the most effective and simple way to stop the transmission is via the (now ubiquitous) term: #SocialDistancing: the simple expedient of maintaining distance, so we can be out of range of the respiratory droplets that are considered the principal source of the spread.

This allows for “flattening the curve” of the number of exponentially rising cases and effectively slowing the spread rate through community isolation measures — so that healthcare facilities can accommodate and treat serious cases at their current capacities. In the absence of therapeutic and pharmaceutical interventions such as vaccines, this has proved effective in the early areas of outbreak in China and South Korea. As of March 17th, China reported no new cases and rates are declining in South Korea. India is currently in stage 2 of the pandemic, where stage 3 is community spread, and effective community isolation strategies can arrest (and possibly avoid) this situation. Self-quarantine followed by centralized quarantine strategies have been implemented in both China and Italy to contain the disease, but when the number of cases reach a certain point, one has to move to more drastic community mitigation as tracing the contacts as a strategy is no longer feasible.

Travel Ban

The general sense in the epidemiologic community is that travel bans — local, domestic and international — can slow down the spread of an infectious disease outbreak but cannot really prevent it. [“Blocking Travelers Won’t Prevent Spread” – Vox; Chinazzi et al. 2020] China restricted travel to the Hubei province fairly quickly and Italy was one of the first countries to impose a travel ban to China. This helped slow down the epidemic and gave other countries some more time, but both countries failed to avert the epidemic.

Travel bans are most effective in the early part of the epidemic and India has taken very prompt and strict measures in the early phase. The ultimate drop in the number of cases in China has been through lockdown of the city, ban traffic, rapidly identify cases, isolate them and educate the public.

Personal Hygiene and Sanitation

Based on what is currently known about the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued numerous guidelines on personal hygiene and sanitation – what to do at homes, schools, businesses to battle the disease. Even though information is limited, early data seems to indicate that COVID-19 can seriously affect the elderly, immunosuppressed and immunocompromised populations more than others, which is why the CDC recommends every individual to identify vulnerable people and make emergency contact lists for everyone in their households so that swift action can be taken in case of an infection. This includes chronic comorbidities such as diabetes and India has one of the highest rate of diabetes incidence.

The CDC has urged everyone to follow simple personal hygiene and sanitation practices, such as

  1. Regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol,
  2. Avoiding touching nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands and
  3. Disinfecting all ‘high touch’ surfaces such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, toilets, keyboards and phones.

Infected people have been asked to isolate themselves in their homes and restrict outside activities, except for getting medical care.

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