InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 17

In the age of coronavirus

In recent times, life has changed dramatically but whenever a person faces tough times, there are always two ways to confront the situation, either you face it with resilience or accept your failure. We have no option to fail in the situation.

In this time of crisis, responsibility also lies on the masses to follow precautions. The message is very simple and that is to stay at home. Social responsibility is foremost. When the situation is not under control, then wise and careful measures are needed. In this early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with undetected cases accelerating transmission even as testing ramps up, that is critical. Most obviously, we need health workers to care for the sick, even though their jobs carry the greatest risk of exposure and they are doing it in the best way but their safety is also very important.

In Wuhan, 1,300 health workers became infected with the virus; their likelihood of infection was more than three times as high as the general population. But the methods which were established there were very hard and unable to be implemented in countries like Pakistan. Yet there are lessons to be learnt from two places that saw the new coronavirus before we did and that have had success in controlling its spread. Hong Kong and Singapore, both detected their first cases in late January, and the number of cases escalated rapidly. Officials banned large gatherings, directed people to work from home, and encouraged social distancing. Testing was ramped up as quickly as possible. But even the measures were never going to be enough if the virus kept propagating among health workers and facilities. Primary care clinics and hospitals in the two countries, like in the U.S., didn’t have enough gowns and N95 masks, and at first, tests weren’t widely available. After six weeks, they started controlling the outbreak. Hospitals weren’t overrun with patients.

All healthcare workers are expected to wear regular surgical masks for all patient interactions, use gloves and proper hand hygiene, and to disinfect all surfaces in between patient consults. Patients with suspicious symptoms (a low-grade fever coupled with a cough, respiratory complaints, fatigue, or muscle aches) or exposures (travel to places with viral spread or contact with someone who tested positive) are separated from the rest of the patient population, and treated—wherever possible—in separate respiratory wards and clinics, in separate locations, with separate teams. Social distancing is practiced within clinics and hospitals: waiting-room chairs are placed six feet apart; direct interactions among staff members are conducted at a distance; doctors and patients stay six feet apart except during examinations.

What’s equally interesting is what they don’t do. The use of N95 masks, face-protectors, goggles, and gowns are reserved for procedures where respiratory secretions can be aerosolized (for example, intubating a patient for anesthesia) and for known or suspected cases of Covid-19. The fact that these measures have succeeded in flattening the covid-19 curve carries some hopeful implications. But we now seem to be moving in the right direction, and the experience in Asia suggests that extraordinary precautions don’t seem to be required to stop it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the face of limited information, recommended stricter precautions than have been employed in Asia. The WHO also recommends testing, testing and only testing to tackle the pandemic. In South Korea, the success of mass testing in containing the spread of the disease has raised the possibility that asymptomatic carriers were causing the outbreak.

According to the IMF, more than $83 billion has flown out of Third World countries since the beginning of the pandemic. It is “recorded as the largest capital outflow ever” and Bloomberg Economics says it is more than $2.7 trillion across the world. Imperial College London reports that there is a danger of 40 million deaths due to the crisis. According to the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, 100,000 to 200,000 Americans can die from Covid-19. When you have no choice but to leave home and go to work while the case counts rise around you, it is hard not to panic. It is high time for the whole world to focus on the health sector and education than on weapons. Climate change and wet markets are pondering points. The pandemic is global; its lessons are too. The coronavirus is likely to spread for more than a year before a vaccine could be widely available.

Although the most severe situation can be turned around, yet the experience of cities and countries that have pushed back the virus gives hope and courage to the rest of the world. During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. It will help you in the long term. Firstly, eat a healthy and nutritious diet, which helps your immune system to function properly. Secondly, limit meat consumption and sugary diets. Thirdly, don’t smoke, smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease, if you become infected with Covid-19. Fourthly, exercise. The WHO recommends 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults, and one hour a day for children. You can walk, run, ride, do some yoga or walk up and down the stairs in your home or at a place near your home observing social distancing. If you are working at home, make sure you don’t sit in the same position for long periods. Get up and take a three-minute break every 30 minutes. Fifth, look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stress, become confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help. Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them. Check on neighbors, family and friends. Read your favorite book or watch a movie. Be hopeful, things will be good soon.