Here are 5 essential tips for us all to protect ourselves and fight the spread of COVID-19. We as individuals and part of a wider community can take simple steps in the face of this disease. Our main mission is to slow down the spread of the disease so that we avoid overwhelming our health workers and system, and ultimately save lives until a cure becomes available.
Stay At Home
The number one way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 is to simply stay at home as much as possible. That is, do not leave the home unless exercising, commuting to work, shopping for food or for a medical purpose. Early estimates indicate COVID-19 might be significantly more contagious than the flu, with a reproductive number (R, or the number of people one infected person will end up passing on the disease to) thought to be in the 2-3 range when uncontained with social distancing measures, compared to the flu’s R of 1.3 (depending on strain). Whilst COVID-19’s R figure is still being worked out, it could mean it’s twice as contagious as the flu.
The coronavirus being a novel virus, there are unknowns regarding the way it spreads. As such, staying home is the only certain way for you to not catch or propagate the disease. Whilst Australia has successfully started to slow down transmission with a flattening curve of new infections, Australian states will likely continue to encourage and mandate people stay at home for some time. NSW Police Commissioner announced that the orders limiting gatherings to 2 people and only allowing essential travel would last 90 days (starting 30 March).
If you have any medical questions or concerns that are not urgent, please avoid going to your GP or to hospital, as this might increase chances of contamination. Instead, consider switching to telehealth by getting in touch with our online Australian doctors in minutes.
We realise not everyone has the ability to stay at home so it is important to be proactive with the following tips when outside of your home.
Social Distancing if in Public
An expression that has now become an integral part of our vocabulary, social distancing describes the new in-public behavioural etiquette should you absolutely need to leave your house. It is dictated by one simple principle: eliminate physical and close proximity contact between yourself and anybody else.
Social distancing is meant to reduce the chances of you catching or spreading the virus as much as possible if you absolutely need to venture out in public. The Australian Department of Health advises people to implement the following social distancing measures:
- keep 1.5 metres away from others
- avoid physical contact, including greetings such as handshaking, hugs, and kisses
- use tap and pay instead of cash
- travel at quiet times and avoid crowds
Handwashing using the proper technique is essential. Make sure to use soap and water, including before and after eating, going to the toilet, being in public (including public transportation, ride-share services, grocery shopping, exercising) is essential. Soap is an amazing virus deterrent as it breaks down the fatty barrier that protects the virus. Make sure to wash for 20 seconds minimum as the physical process that breaks down the virus’ fatty barrier requires time. One of the things we know is that COVID-19 spreads for sure via droplets let out during sneezing or coughing, and that it survives on hard surfaces for up to a couple of days.
Handwashing with soap will reduce the chances of your hands becoming conveyors of the virus, be it by touching your face or touching other surfaces. If you do not have the ability to properly wash your hands with running water, use alcohol-based hand-sanitisers (must be 65% alcohol content and above to be effective). Anti-bacterial products will be of no use if they do not contain soap – make sure to check what you are using.
Avoid Touching your Face and Items
The virus enters your body via respiratory ways -your mouth and your nose when inhaling. It has been shown that the virus can stay on hard surfaces for extended periods of time. Should the virus have found its way to your hand via contact or via a droplet containing the virus, touching your face increases the risk of you inhaling the virus and becoming infected. When bringing items back into your house take precautionary measures to disinfect and wipe all items down, as well as washing your hands and areas your items touched.
Coughing & Sneezing Etiquette
According to the World Health Organization, “when someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the coronavirus if the person coughing has the disease”.
This is why it is essential to reduce the amount of droplets you might be letting out when sneezing or coughing in public. Sneezing in your elbow or in a tissue that you immediately dispose of appears to let the least amount of droplets out compared to sneezing with no protection or in your hands (check out the video below if you need a visual), reducing the chances of contamination, and should be your go-to in the case of an unexpected sneeze or cough.
Wash and/or sanitize immediately your hands, and disinfect or wash your elbow and other area(s) you sneezed or coughed into. More generally, avoid going out if you have any coughing or sneezing symptoms, and if you absolutely have to do so make sure to wear a mask.
Wear a Non-surgical Grade Mask if In Public
It appears there might be some benefits, even if limited, to wearing any sort of face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 should you need to venture outside your home. Whilst the protection offered by a plain cloth face mask might be extremely limited, it is better than nothing at all. If you do not have a face mask at hand, you can easily do your own DIY face mask.
Please remember to not wear surgical-grade face masks, especially if you are not displaying any symptoms, as those should only be worn by healthcare professionals.