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Changing times call for a change in our lifestyles. As we get ready to enter the eighth month of the year, without any sign of a vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus, it is about time we start learning to live with it.
Although it seems that the nature of the virus makes it multiply at just the mention of human contact, a recent study delved deep to understand the spread of the disease and effectiveness of the prescribed measures.
The researchers at the University Medical Centre Utrecht in Netherlands, whose findings were published on Tuesday in the PLoS Medicine journal, said: “A large epidemic can be prevented if the efficacy of these measures exceeds 50%.”
The study suggests that if people washed their hands diligently, wore their masks right and at all points of time, and maintained social distancing from one another, they could stop most of the spread of the covid-19 pandemic, even without a vaccine or additional treatments.
Yup, wearing a mask and social distancing can go a long way
It is understandable that the public at large will take a considerable about of time to understand and adapt to this new normal. While it could be time taking to get everyone on board, if people do change their lifestyles and behaviour—it can result in a significant drop in the number of new cases coming up every day.
That said, the research doesn’t claim that these self-administered measures would be able to delay the peak in cases. But if the government-imposed physical distancing were to be coupled up with disease awareness and these personal steps, the height of the peak could be reduced. And that would remain effective even after government-imposed social distancing orders are lifted.
“In practical terms, it means that SARS-CoV-2 will not cause a large outbreak in a country where 90% of the population adopts handwashing and social distancing that is 25% efficacious,” the researchers wrote.
The research did miss out on a few things
There are a few things that the research hasn’t taken into account. For instance, the risk borne by health workers; cases where people live together; or even the risk of reinfection.
However, American leaders seem to be echoing the sentiment of this study. The director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told the Buck Institute for Research on Aging last Tuesday the country is “not defenceless.”
“If we all wore face coverings for the next four, six, eight, twelve weeks, across the nation, this virus transmission would stop,” he said.
In India too the Ministry of Health is trying to spread the word about wearing masks to combat the pandemic. In fact, just recently, the Director-General of Health Services (Ministry of Health) sent a letter to the state governments asking to them to curb “inappropriate use” of N95 masks, especially those with valved respirators.
“It is to bring to your knowledge that the use of valved respirator N-95 masks is detrimental to the measures adopted for preventing the spread of coronavirus as it does not prevent the virus from escaping out of the mask. In view of the above, I request you to instruct all concerned to follow the use of face/mouth cover and prevent inappropriate use of N-95 masks,” DGHS Rajiv Garg said in the letter.
Considering the vaccines for covid-19 are still under development and not ready to be deployed yet, perhaps it’s time to once again revive the conversation around these measures to see if we as a public can bring this pandemic to a halt.