The importance of social distancing during a pandemic

Members of the California National Guard 115th Regional Support Group standing practice social distancing as they help pack boxes of food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. -AFP pic
Members of the California National Guard 115th Regional Support Group standing practice social distancing as they help pack boxes of food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. -AFP pic

DURING a pandemic, members of the society need to show solidarity by being responsible for the safety of all. There is no room for selfishness. It only take one stubborn virus carrier going rogue to infect thousands of people.

If without control measures for mitigation, such as the forced social distancing through the recent Movement Control Order (MCO), the number of critical patients will soon cripple the whole healthcare system in the country. This disastrous consequence will be unimaginable.

Covid-19 is unlike a common flu. There is still no effective treatment or vaccine to date. When the condition gets critical, the pain will be unbearable that every breath will be a struggle and excruciating. When it gets fatal, it is like drowning slowly from within as the lungs are destroyed by the virus.

Even for those recovered, there will be permanent scars that reduce lung functions. We have seen some of these tragic scenarios unfolding in China and Italy when the patients without access to medical facility were screaming in pain and left to fend for themselves.

This has resulted in a spike of fatality, especially for those with pre-existing complications. Some might be wondering why the need for social distancing, which makes most businesses close down, threatening the livelihood of may who are already financially struggling.

If the citizens do not abide the MCO, not just livelihoods are affected many lives will be lost when the infection goes out of control. During the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, nearly 40,000 deaths were recorded in Malaya, which accounts for one per cent of the population at that time.

Can you imagine Covid-19 taking away the life of over 300,000 Malaysians? How devasting that would be to our country? It is evidential that social distancing helps to “flatten the curve” so that our healthcare system can manage the number of patients.

Hence, please look at the bigger picture and stay at home to keep yourself and your family safe. Consider the heroic front liners dealing with the relentless situation. Losing temporary income or freedom to go out is a small price for preserving life.

The most important reason for social distancing is because we cannot be sure who is infected. The latest study based on Wuhan statistics, an estimate of 59 per cent infected individuals were out and about, unknowingly infecting others.

From the 565 Japanese evacuees from Wuhan, four out of thirteen (31 per cent) evacuees were tested positive but never showed any symptoms. Based on the 3,711 persons on board the Diamond Princess who were all tested, 18 per cent of around 700 positive cases never developed symptoms.

Taken together, it is possible that 50 per cent of all Covid-19 cases remain undetected due to no or mild symptoms. These undetected cases of viral carriers pose great threats for new outbreaks at gatherings. Therefore, we all need to stay at home and adapt to working from home.

For many, it will be uneasy or even get more stressed the longer the time staying home. The only connection to the outside world is now through the social media. Be informed with the latest development of the Covid-19 situation is good but looking at the increasing number of patients everyday can be depressing.

Remember that it takes time for the MCO to make an impact on the statistics due to the lag in the 2-week incubation time before the symptoms appear for those less immune. No one is invincible to Covid-19 even if a very healthy person. You never know if you are infected unless you get tested.

Even if tested positive, it is still uncertain whether you will develop symptoms or when your body condition will drastically deteriorate until lung failure. Thus better be safe than sorry.

If you are struggling with coping alone, please talk to your close ones or seek help. Instead of messaging, occasionally having a call by hearing familiar voices or seeing familiar faces through video call can be therapeutic for some.

Remember that you are not alone in the current situation.

There will be others feeling the same. Joining a forum might be helpful for some to share their feelings and empathise with each other. As the situation remains uncertain on whether there will be a third wave of drastic increase, we have to prepare our mindset for the long haul.

Be critical of fake news. There is a saying “once you take out a few letters from pandemic, you get panic”. Let us all be rational, stay home, stay calm, and stay safe. Please don’t become a “covidiot” – someone who stubbornly ignores social distancing!

By Dr Hoe-Han Goh.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/03/578050/importance-social-distancing-during-pandemic

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