COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that has reached a pandemic status, with over 300 000 recorded cases to date and over 14 000 deaths. While its rate of spread is rather frightening, there is good news. If we all work together to do a few simple things, we can contain its spread, reduce pressure on our health systems and save lives. Here are six simple things we can all do to contain the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds and if you do not have access to running water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Soap is particularly effective against coronavirus because it destroys the virus’s outer shell and makes it incapable of infecting our cells. As a corollary, regularly wipe down surfaces with disinfectant, such as any door handles, tables, and particularly smartphones.
Maintain social distancing.
Social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine are the most powerful tools we have for containing the spread of the coronavirus. Keep a distance of at least one meter between yourself and any person who is sneezing or coughing. When a person coughs or sneezes they spray small droplets from their mouth and nose which may contain the COVID-19 virus. Inhaling these droplets may lead to infection, which is why isolation is important.
If you are asymptomatic and have not been exposed to anyone with the virus, make your best efforts to stay at home and avoid large gatherings. Be sure to avoid physical contact with anyone as far as humanly possible to minimize your chances of infection,
If you are presenting symptoms but do not think you have been exposed to anyone infected, it is best to go into self-isolation for at least two weeks and contact the authorities for testing. While there is a chance you may not be infected, it is safer to take precautions and avoid potentially infecting other people.
If you test positive and are placed under quarantine, please follow quarantine protocols strictly. Be sure to wear a mask if you are infected so you contain your droplets should you cough or sneeze.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
You touch numerous surfaces without even thinking about it. You may touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands thoroughly, you risk giving the virus an entry point to your body.
Practice Respiratory Hygiene
Make sure you and the people around you follow good respiratory hygiene. This entails covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze so you contain any droplets. The used tissue must then be disposed of immediately. If you have tested positive or are exhibiting symptoms, you should also wear a mask. It is important to note that only sick individuals need to wear masks. There is a finite supply of masks and depleting this supply needlessly will put health workers and service providers at risk because they have to interact with infected people.
Seek Medical Attention Early
If you have a fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently. Do not visit the doctor, you may infect them and other patients. Rather, call in from home, You will receive instructions on how to proceed and a testing agent may be sent to your location.
Get Information from Reliable Sources
It is important to stay informed about the latest developments with the coronavirus. Follow the advice from official government sources, the CDC, and the World Health Organization for the most accurate and reliable information, Follow their official social media channels to get timely updates. Avoid, at all costs, sharing information that cannot be reliably verified. Misinformation causes panic and can either fuel the spread of the virus, reduce the effectiveness of government responses or even cost lives.
The coronavirus pandemic is frightening because of how quickly it spreads undetected and how lethal it is. However, it is not impossible to beat if we come together as a society and act swiftly and with common sense to contain its spread.