Covid-19: Socialising and Social distancing
Rotimi Jaiyesimi, MBBS, MBA, FRCOG
Emmanuel Aluko, MS, MBA, CFA
I have been invited to that party, and I am told there would be less than 50 people in attendance. Should I go?
First, wash your hands and take appropriate Covid-19 advice from approved authorities before you decide! The less than 50 gathering may already have been ‘outlawed’ by your national government giving you no decision to make (Austria banned gatherings of more than 5 people on March 15 and Germany and the UK, gatherings of more than 2 in public).
The rhetorical question is a very serious one in the era of the Sars-Cov-2 Pandemic and the looming spectre of Covid-19. There is a risk, albeit still a small one, that going to that party can result in the realisation of one’s ultimate fear – Covid-19, non-recovery and death. Okay, perhaps not as fatalistic as it sounds.
Two things right off the bat (by the way, bats have been identified as a potential source of our coronavirus fears) are that (1) there is no approved therapy for Covid-19 yet, so it seems it is really up to one’s immune system to fight off the disease and (2) vaccines are in early stages of being developed and we do not expect an effective vaccine for about twelve months.
Given these two things, it is rational to do whatever is necessary to avoid Covid-19. However, experience from places where the disease has spread rapidly suggest majority of people experience mild symptoms and recover well, some become distressed with pneumonia (respiratory distress) and recover upon management, while unfortunately too many die (estimated at 2%-8%)
Let’s start with a little logic and then back it up with some mathematical modelling for those so inclined. The more people who get the infection in your country or region, the more you are at risk in groups of people as the likelihood of someone in that group carrying the virus increases. Thus, as more people get the disease, one is better off associating less and less with people until you are singularly isolated as the limiting case. In fact, it is social distancing that is probably the most effective way to halt the virus spread as that breaks the human-human transmission link.
This explains why the advice of self-isolation if Covid-19 symptoms is experienced, or if diagnosed with the disease is sound advice. One hopefully recovers, and does not pass it on. Hence the ‘new’ addition to our lexicon of Social distancing defined by Maragakis, M,D of John Hopkins Medicine as deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness and going on to further explain that staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.
Quite a number of people find it difficult to perceive what a distance of 6 feet is. One way round this is using your height and assume you are lying flat. That distance or length should provide you with a guide to what the recommended 6 feet is.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
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 (CDC).
In addition to the regular hand washing with soap and water or the use of hand sanitisers, social distancing will help contain this virus and reduce the spread of Covid-19. The advice is not to attend that party. Keep to the recommended gathering of not more than two people and preferably standing six feet apart.
Stay home, Social distance and Stay well