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How Social Distancing can help Control COVID-19?

April 1, 2020 - by Parul Saini, Webmedy team


Staying home can help stem the coronavirus outbreak, but what if you're well? Is it a good idea to go for a run in a congested park, go to the store, or visit your friends?

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising every day, doctors offer insights on how to isolate yourself from others, while still arranging the social help you need. Throughout the world, government officials are suggesting people who have contracted or been exposed to the new coronavirus to follow social distancing and quarantine to slow virus spread.

  • Social distancing means maintaining a safe distance (about 6 feet) from others and avoiding crowded places such as parties, offices, concert halls and city transportation.
  • Quarantine means avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to COVID-19 to observe if they become ill.
  • Isolation means isolating a person who has got COVID-19 to stop them from spreading it to others.

Keep social distancing

Have at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance within yourself and anyone, especially if you notice someone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? Coughs or sneezes scatter large amounts of liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may carry the virus. If you are too close, you can inhale in the droplets, including the coronavirus if the person coughing has the virus.

At this point, there is no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus so our safest solution is based on prevention.

Many nations around the world are now enforcing several measures for social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They vary from stopping crowd gatherings, blocking public places like recreation centers, bars, shopping malls, movie theaters, schools, colleges and in some areas a total lockdown with people ordered to stay inside.

While self-isolation is a kind of social distancing, there is an essential distinction to be made. Self-isolation and quarantine are directed at stopping people who are infected or are identified to have had a connection with people who are affected by the virus. Social distancing is a broader action aimed at preventing the kind of mixing of people that enables viruses to spread within a community.

But there is a big reason why social distancing has become such an important solution in controlling this pandemic. It has to do with the way the virus spreads and multiplies in various stages.

  • Each person affected with the COVID-19 coronavirus is considered to pass it on to about 2-3 other people in the first stages of an outbreak. This contagiousness is marked by epidemiologists doing something recognized as a "reproduction number". By contrast, flu has a reproduction number of 1.06-3.4 depending on the force. Rhinovirus, which is one of these that produce the normal cold, has a generation number of 1.2-1.83. Most estimates for COVID-19 have set its reproduction number within 1.4-3.9.
  • The incubation period, the period between the onset of virus infection and showing of symptoms is about five days for COVID-19, although it can get up to 14 days for signs to resemble. If you are affected and still socialize, as usual, you may transfer the virus on to among two and three friends or household members, who could then go on to affect another 2-3 people. Within one month one person can potentially infect 244 different people, and in two months, this could rise to 59,604 infections.
  • To further elaborate this, the virus is also believed to be able to spread from people who have been infected but yet to expose any symptoms. According to one study by Lauren Ancel Meyers at the University of Texas at Austin concluded that this transmission can happen in up to 10% of circumstances. An expected 1-3% of people who get the disease will continue asymptomatic.

There is previously some proof that being at home, and having a safe distance from others, can reduce the spread and prevent this domino effect. A study on infections in Wuhan revealed that the initiation of large-scale control areas saw the reproduction number in the city drop from 2.35 to about one. When a reproduction number moves one, the number of cases will end rising as dramatically each infected person is transferring it on to only one other person. Modeling work in China has revealed that large levels of social distancing were key to overcoming this reproduction number in Wuhan and the deeper Hubei province.

One of the main purposes of social distancing is to "level the curve", which means preventing the spread of the virus so it transfers people more slowly. With it, the curve is much flatter and the number of infected people at any point is much lower, which means people requiring urgent care and resources are lower.

The effectiveness and societal influence of quarantine and social distancing will depend on the likelihood of public health professionals, political leaders, organizations, and most importantly the general public.

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