As the numbers diagnosed with Covid-19 creep up again and with winter looming it appears this pandemic will continue to dominate our daily lives for some time. There is a glut of information online about how to protect yourself from getting Covid-19 and there are many experts advising us on how we can minimise our chances of catching this virus. However, getting your information from reliable sources that are familiar with international, national as well as local guidelines and protocols is vital.
It is important too that we all practice good infection prevention and control measures in our daily lives to protect us from acquiring Covid-19 or other respiratory infections such as the flu or viruses associated with the "common cold" such as rhinovirus and adenovirus.
Firstly let's recap on Covid-19.
Covid-19 is a viral respiratory infection that began affecting people in Wuhan, China in 2019 before becoming a global pandemic. This infection is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which originated in animals and spread to humans.
This virus spreads between people who are in close contact with each other via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land on the nose and mouth of others, be inhaled into the lungs or settle on environmental surfaces where they can survive for up to three days. The main symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, cough, shortness of breath and loss of smell and taste. About 80pc of people who have become infected by Covid-19 have a mild symptoms, some not even knowing they carry the virus. This is known as asymptomatic carriage.
Covid-19 can be incubated in your body after you have been infected for between two and 14 days without any symptoms showing. During this time you can infect others. This makes observing the following guidelines all the more important.
The best way to protect you and others from Covid-19 is to remember these 10 Ws.
Wash your hands
Soap and water is very effective at reducing this virus, so wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitiser such as alcohol-based hand rub is both effective and convenient as you can locate it in your bag or car when out and about. You should wash your hands or use hand sanitiser promptly after touching public surfaces for example touch screens, credit card machines, handrails, door handles or push-plates, handling cash and after touching your face, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Wear a mask
It is now mandatory to wear a mask or face-covering in public areas and public transport. Face coverings can protect you from becoming infected and protect others from becoming infected by you, should you carry the virus. Face coverings should always be worn correctly. Cloth face coverings or masks with two layers are recommended outside of healthcare settings. It should fit snugly to your face, covering your nose, mouth and chin. You shouldn't touch the front of your face covering as you could contaminate your hands. On removing it, only touch the ties or elastic bands and place the face covering into a plastic bag to wash at 60C, or else discard it into a waste bin.
Have tissues within easy reach at other times if possible, for example when eating. Cover mouth and nose with a tissue if sneezing or coughing, otherwise use your elbow. Always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. Bin tissues immediately after use.
Watch your distance: Keep physical distancing when going to the shops, restaurants or out walking. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. The recommended distance for social distancing is two metres.
You should clean frequently touched items as often as possible. Common household surfaces should be kept clean by using detergent and water or with household bleach. High touch surfaces warrant regular cleaning. These include door handles, taps & toilets, remote controls, video controllers, keyboards, telephones etc.
Work from home
By remaining in your family home, you are limiting your contact with others and thereby reducing the spread of Covid-19. This protects you, your family and others from getting this disease.
Walk away from crowds
In the early stages of the pandemic, a typical person with confirmed Covid-19 had been in close contact with approximately 20 people before their diagnosis. Since the introduction of restrictions, this number has reduced, but it remains most important to limit your number of contacts to as low a number as possible to control the spread.
Wrap up warm
There is a link between getting a cold and being cold. Our noses dry out in low temperatures or in dry air-conditioned environments. This can often trap respiratory viruses and allow them to reproduce. Buy a scarf to wrap around your neck and over your nose .
Withhold judgement of others
Some people sitting together at work, church or on the bus may be from a family or household unit, some people may not be able to wear a mask due for medical reasons, some people may have a chronic cough due to an unrelated medical condition, some people may have had COVID-19 in the past or are now positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
Don't be quick to judge people's actions. Take responsibility for yours.
Win over your friends and colleagues through leading by example, such as by practising good personal and environmental hygiene or by staying away from vulnerable people or group or groups such as grandparents (> 70years), people with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, liver disease. These groups can become very ill if they contract Covid-19.
Work together by installing the Covid tracker app to assist with contact tracing.
Early detection of a positive result leads to early notification of close contacts and limits the spread of Covid.
So, what should you do if you have been in contact with an individual who has since been confirmed with Covid-19?
You should maintain a strict self-isolation period of 14 days. Ideally, you should remain at home in a separate room and have your own bathroom.
If physical isolation is not possible, a distance of at least two metres from all other family members should be strictly maintained and your environment should be cleaned as regularly as possible.
You should not share food or household utensils with family or others in the home.
If a household member tests positive for Covid-19, the whole household must self-isolate, observing all of the infection prevention and control measures described above.
Almost all of the infection prevention and control tips listed here are universal and should be used in everyday life, not just during this pandemic.
We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves. Most importantly with Covid-19, by protecting ourselves, we are protecting everyone else.