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Social distancing as an essential practice

Maintaining Distance Even After Lockdown

Why do we need to adopt social distancing as a habit?

Let's begin by understanding how social distancing helps in containing the spread of novel Coronavirus and other contagious infections. The goal of this practice is to reduce the human-to-human spread of infections. By maintaining a safe distance from others - about 6 feet, approximately - we can stop respiratory droplets from an infected person to land on a healthy person. This helps in breaking the chain of transmission (infection from one person to another) and flattening the curve of the infected cases (reduce the rise in new cases).

In the case of COVID-19, this has proven successful only in part because it can take up to 2 weeks for an infected person to develop symptoms. This is why most countries graduated from voluntary social distancing to state-mandated self-isolation - like the lockdown in India.

While the practice of social distancing may have caught on during this pandemic, it's usefulness is not exclusive to novel coronavirus alone. If adopted as a lifestyle practice, it can reduce the incidence of other contagious infections such as swine flu, influenza, common cold and other seasonal viral illnesses.


A Lesson From Japan

Japan has emerged as one of the curious mysteries of this pandemic. The increase in the number of corona positive cases in the country has been extremely slow. Despite being located right next to China and having confirmed cases of travel from Wuhan in mid-January, the country reported its first case on Feb 20, and two months later, its figure has just breached the 5,000-mark. This is in sharp contrast to the US and European countries like Italy, Spain, Germany and France, with positive cases running in lakhs.

Has Japan done something drastically different? Well, not specifically in the wake of this pandemic. But the Japanese lifestyle may well be the differentiator here. Social distancing comes naturally to the people here:

  • People generally avoid being in large groups
  • Maintaining distance from strangers is the norm
  • Very few people share accommodations with others, this includes young students and professionals.
  • People maintained distance from others at all times, even at social events and public gatherings.
  • Their contactless greeting marked by bowing to each other is a fine example of social distancing, just like te namaste of India.
  • Wearing surgical masks when down with the flu or cold is the norm here. Not only does this prevent the spread of infections but also sends out a signal to others to maintain their distance from the infected person.

Social Distancing in a Post-corona World

When this pandemic has run its course, the world we live in may not be the same again. Carrying on some of the practices we’re following to the T right now hold us all in good stead. Of course, we can’t stay indoors, work from home and avoid all non-essential contact and travel forever, but here are some practices that can – and must – be retained for the long haul:

  • Practising good hand hygiene.
  • Keeping a handkerchief/tissue on you, if you're sick.
  • If you don't have either, coughing, sneezing into your elbow and not your palm.
  • Wearing a mask if you have a cough or cold.
  • Following safe-distance practices in markets, stores, gyms and elevators.
  • Avoiding crowded places when you're carrying an infection.
  • Sticking to the 6-feet distance rule as much as possible when interacting with co-workers, clients and even friends.

It will be a while before the world, and your life, picks up pace again. Until then, stay indoors, stay safe!

 


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