Coronavirus is a pandemic now, but are we doing our bit or relying on the system to kick in all by itself?
Toilet paper shortages in Australia and Canada. Italy under total lock-down. Tom Hanks’ tweeted he tested positive too. WHO officially declared it a global pandemic, finally.
What we know about Coronavirus
We now know most people (about 80 percent) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
We also know around 16 percent (1 out of every 6) people do get seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like blood pressure, heart problems, lung complaints, diabetes or weakened immune systems, are more likely to develop serious illness.
We know not all those exposed to Coronavirus will show symptoms, but may still be carriers.
We know those who have had it once, can very well contract it again.
What we don’t know
What we do not know about Coronavirus is how many types are out there? Scientists in China believe that it has already mutated into 2 strains, one more aggressive than the other. Could it mutate to become more lethal?
We do not know if we have been exposed yet or when or from whom, as it usually incubates for anywhere between 10 to 14 days before symptoms appear.
We do not know if seasonal changes will curtail its spread.
With more than 120 countries around the world either battling it or bracing for the worst to hit yet, what are we doing as individuals?
I look around and see quite a few people panicking:
They consume (read ‘devour’) and forward every trending feed on Coronavirus as breaking news, stock up on groceries and lock themselves in and frantically wait … as if they are being hunted down – Far right.
Then there are those on the other side of the spectrum. They look down upon those panicking. They believe what must come, will. They go about life as normal, socialising, eating out and recklessly roaming outdoors … as if mocking this “so called” pandemic – Far left.
Why aren’t there more in the centre, I wonder.
Those who are aware yet calm; who go about life, but with measured, cautious and thoughtful steps. To the ones on the far left and far right, I plead, ‘slow down’.
Measure and weigh your day to day choices
Avoid going out unnecessarily. If that next work lunch or kitty party can be missed, miss it. We all know by now the amplifying effects of infected individuals who continue to engage in social activities and go to work, leading to further exposure and infection. The overall goal is to minimize the case load because hospitals cannot treat everyone who needs respiratory care with coronavirus, while continuing to operate within their routine capacity built to tackle standard care needs (heart attacks, car crashes, etc.).
Be cautious when you must go out
Follow good hygiene practices and maintain safe distance from those around you (at least 1 meter as suggested by CDC and WHO guidelines). Be careful who you give access to your homes; consider friends who are returning from travel or domestic help who use public transport. Is there a way to minimise exposure to them?
And of course, continue to be thoughtful
Think beyond yourself and your family. Think of your neighbours who you ran into earlier today morning, of your hairdresser with whom you scheduled an appointment for next week, of your corner grocery store-keeper where you stopped by to pick up eggs and yoghurt last tonight, of your grand-mum whom you are due to visit day after tomorrow. Think. Think hard. What if you are a carrier and you pass on the contagion to any of them? What if even one of them have a compromised defence system and are not able to fight it as well as you can?
Think of yourselves as a single cell belonging to the larger, living, breathing organism that is the society. No matter what measures our governments and health care providers instil, if we continue to defy guidelines we are doing a disservice to the larger society.
We expect the system to work for us. But what if our own actions are burdening the system?
If the spread becomes rampant, are our hospitals equipped to deal with a large influx of patients needing critical care right away? Do we want to be making choices like the ones facing Iran and Italy? You must have heard about super-spreaders, (read about Daegu, S.Korea) or clusters, (read about SAFRA, Jurong, Singapore). Alas, it takes only one or a few to infect many, and undo all that has been done to contain the spread.
Hence, slow down.
Do your bit to help slow down the outbreak by lying low and staying home more often. Do so to not put pressure on resources in our healthcare systems. Do so knowing it is temporary; for the interim period while experts are still grappling with fact-finding and cure-developing. There is a reason it is called the novel virus. As information is still trickling in – slow down. Let it become just a bit more familiar, so we are all equipped to make more informed choices in the future.