How much precaution is enough?

March 8, 2020

The question remains as to what more must we do to stop the deadly coronavirus from spreading?

With six confirmed cases of the virus found in Pakistan and an increasing number of deaths in neighbouring China and Iran, panic and uncertainty around the current situation is on the rise. Facemasks and hand sanitisers seem to be the only precautionary measures within our reach. Schools in Sindh remained closed on February 27 and 28, and academic institutions in Balochistan will remain closed till March 15. The matriculation examination in Balochistan has also been postponed for a later date.

Educational institutions in the Punjab have sent out a list of strict guidance for all students and employers to follow. The question still remains, though, as to how much precaution is enough and what more must we do to stop the deadly coronavirus from spreading?

A fair amount of panic has gripped Lahore also, with everyone trying to shield themselves using facemasks and avoiding all unnecessary outings in public areas such as malls and cinema houses. At this rate, the situation looks quite scary as if within just a few weeks everyone would need to be quarantined.

However, according to experts, there are only a few specific precautions that need to be taken at this stage, and that too depending on the general condition of one’s health. Facemasks, for example, are only truly required if one is experiencing any symptoms. The virus starts deep in the lungs, showing symptoms such as fever, dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. It is only when these symptoms surface and persist that one is recommended to stay at home.

A fair amount of panic has gripped Lahore also, with everyone trying to shield themselves with face masks and avoiding all unnecessary outings in public areas such as malls or cinema houses.

Facemasks only help prevent the spread of the virus in case you have it. It is not a shield to protect you but a measure taken for the sake of others in case you have the symptoms. The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend facemasks if you are healthy unless you are a healthcare worker or likely to be surrounded by sick people in other scenarios. However, if at any point one feels sick, an N-95 mask is highly recommended as a precautionary measure.

As far as the risks involved in going to public places are concerned, it must be noted that the virus spreads within six feet. Hence, it might be a good idea to avoid unnecessary contact with anyone who seems sick. When sneezing or coughing, due to whatever reason, it must be directed in the elbow instead of the hands to avoid spreading of the virus through touch.

All in all, these basic measures seem to be it. The fact that there isn’t much else to be done has itself added to the panic surrounding the situation, leading to people taking some unnecessary steps. Though, of course, these steps are better than not doing anything at all.

With cases being found in Balochistan and Sindh, their governments have recommended avoiding public gatherings for a while. The situation in the Punjab is different as no case of the virus has yet been detected. Touch wood. This means that for now we Lahoris need to focus on protecting ourselves from the virus instead of avoiding its spread. Unless one feels sick, measures such as facemasks are not much help.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has circulated a list of precautions that must be taken in schools, colleges and universities. These are basic guidelines that everyone must follow in public areas such as restaurants, malls and cinema houses. The number one of these precautions is washing your hands thoroughly — for at least 20 seconds. Stocking up on hand sanitisers might also be a good idea. Avoid shaking hands, especially with those who appear to be ill. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible. Disinfect shared surfaces like doorknobs, bathroom taps, and table tops. Moreover, all unnecessary travel especially to destinations such as China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran must be avoided.

With these basic precautions in play, the virus seems to be controllable. The panic surrounding the situation mostly has to do with the fact that there is a life-threatening disease on the loose and there is only so much that we can do. Washing one’s hands and sneezing into the elbow doesn’t feel like enough in the face of an impending outbreak. Though, experts around the world say that these basic measures do wonders for the control and prevention of the disease.

A general care of your health, immune system and hygiene are the necessary steps urgently required.

Coronavirus in Pakistan: How much precaution is enough?