Corona Virus pandemic has taught us a complex and contradictory set of lessons. On the positive side, the pandemic confirmed the importance of droplet and contact infection. The pandemic travelled as fast as the modern transportation could take it around, confirming that it was human bodies that spread it.
On the negative side of the lessons from the pandemic is that it is exceedingly difficult to get an urban population to stay at home. People need to work so they can eat; parents want their children to go to school; businesses dependent on customers, whether department stores or movie theatre operators, do not want to close down.
Hence, the most practical strategy in dealing with COVID-19 is been: move quickly to isolate the acutely ill in hospital wards or at home, under professional care and roll-out an intensive public education effort about personal hygiene to everyone else.
It is learned that it is not easy to get the public to practice the rules of modern nose/ mouth/ hand hygiene. Even at the height of the pandemic, educated and well informed people broke the rules. It appears that COVID-19 has been a ‘simple to understand, but difficult to control’ pandemic. Perhaps the most demonstrably useful methods of protection are certain forms of quarantine and isolation but, under conditions of modern life these are not readily applicable. In spite of being difficult to apply and uncertain of success as it may be, the minimizing of contact seems at present to offer the best chance we have of controlling the ravages of covid-19. Our response to the next wave of pandemic COVID-19 will likely confirm these lessons.
This odd combination of futility and certainty would continue to characterize summaries of the ‘lessons learned’ from the pandemic. In the field of prevention little real progress has been made. It will therefore be justifiable to increase the emphasis already placed on the COVID-19 patient as a definite focus of infection and to adopt reasonable measures to reduce crowding and direct contact to a minimum during a period of epidemic prevalence.
The opportunities for self-protection by individuals lie along the same line: avoidance of crowds and of direct contact with COVID patients and with people suffering from the infection; rigorous avoidance of the use of common drinking glasses, common towels and the like; and scrupulous hand washing before eating. Techniques of safe coughing and sneezing should be taught to people. A careless sneeze from an infected person without a mask or a face-cover is a super-spreader.
Vaccination is a saviour but not a licence to break the discipline of personal and social hygiene.
First published 14 Aug 21
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