How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus?

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The global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 100 000. Over 30 countries in the world are battling with the infection and spreading of 2019-nCoV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reminds all countries and communities that the spread of this virus can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities.

Scientists and healthcare authorities believe that the virus is transmittable between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Hence, practising good hand wash hygiene is crucial and the easiest way to protect ourselves and others from catching the virus. We shall always wash our hands when we get home or into work. A duration of at least 20 seconds has been recommended by the UK’s health authorities in the guidelines for a good hand wash.

Soap and water shall be used instead of hand sanitiser gel as soap and water are still the most effective hand hygiene practise. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA recommend rubbing on hand sanitisers with at least 60% alcohol if we are not able to wash our hands.

We must always cover our mouth and nose with a tissue (not our hands) when we cough or sneeze and discard used tissues in the bin straight away. Followed by washing our hands afterwards. We must remember not to touch our eyes, nose or mouth when our hands are not clean.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Hence, we should try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. This is particularly crucial for elderly or people who have underlying medical conditions as COVID-19 may cause severe complications which can be fatal.

People who have travelled to and from areas infected by COVID-19 are recommended by health authorities to practise self-isolation to minimise the chance of spreading the virus in the community. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.

For people with suspected COVID-19 illness, they should contact their local clinic or hospital to obtain further instructions and support to deal with the illness.

Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves and to protect others whether it is in the house, in the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system. Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives. We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity.