Coronavirus Tips: Travelling Safely
Here are some quick Coronavirus tips to start you off with:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid raw/uncooked animal products
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Keep a distance of at least 1 metre between you and others
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Since the start of the year 2020, news of the coronavirus has been getting worse by the day. More and more countries are starting to close off their borders and restrict travel to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Some are also starting to quarantine their own citizens, like China, Singapore and Japan. With all this in mind, is it still safe to travel? Apart from travelling to China, it should be safe to travel to most other countries seeing that the vast majority of the infections and deaths are contained within China, and only one reported death outside of China thus far. Additionally, there are some basic precautions to take to lessen your chances of catching the virus even if you are travelling overseas.
What is the coronavirus?
11 February 2020 marks the crossing of the 1,000-death mark for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. The word “novel” in its name means “new” in reference to it being a new strain of coronavirus, as coronavirus refers to a group of viruses with similar characteristics. The novel coronavirus is the seventh strain of human coronavirus; the SARS outbreak in 2003 was the third known strain of coronavirus. It was originally linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, but later genetic comparisons of the virus have shown it to be similar to SARS and bat coronaviruses, which suggests that bats may be the origin of this new virus. As of 11 February 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also named the disease caused by the virus COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
What should we do to prevent infection?
As stated above, the World Health Organisation has provided a list of guidelines to follow in order to minimise one’s exposure to the virus.
When you wash your hands, either with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub, you will be getting rid of the virus from your hands.
You should avoid raw or uncooked animal products because they may be contaminated with the virus, especially if they were sold in an open market. Cooking could eliminate the virus.
When you cough or sneeze, you should cover your nose and mouth, either with a flexed elbow or with a tissue which should be discarded into a closed bin, and wash your hands immediately after. This is to limit the spread of germs and viruses. You should also consider wearing a face mask if you’re coughing or sneezing.
You should keep a minimum distance of 1 metre between you and anybody around you. This is to minimise the chances of you catching the virus if they were to cough or sneeze as the range of the virus is roughly one metre via coughing or sneezing when the virus gets airborne.
Lastly, you should avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, because there is a possibility that your hands may have touched surfaces contaminated by the virus. Combine this with frequently washing your hands and you will have a very minimal chance of being infected by the coronavirus.
What about face masks?
Can face masks protect us from the virus? The WHO only recommends the wearing of face masks to those taking care of persons suspected to be infected with the virus, but even that is not effective enough, according to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. This is because regular surgical face masks are designed for the purpose of preventing pathogens from the doctors and nurses from entering into the surgical field; that is, it’s designed to keep things in, rather than to keep things out. Thus, it is ineffective against viruses.
How about N95 respirators?
These can and do protect against viruses among other microbes in the air, but Dr. William Schaffner advises against it as he does not see the situation as urgent enough to warrant its use. Additionally, the Ministry of Health Malaysia has also advised that the use of respirators is not suitable for children, pregnant women and the elderly since it makes it harder to breathe.
Are there any antiviral masks?
While there are a number of companies claiming to be selling alleged antiviral masks, none of them have any proof for the validity of their claims, and none have provided any evidence for any kind of certification for their products. Therefore, take precaution so as to not waste your money on products that do not work.
If you take the above precautions set out by the WHO, you should generally be fine. Once you know more about the virus, how it spreads, and how you can or cannot stop it, you can start being alert and stop being anxious.
For a live update on the number of coronavirus infections, deaths and recoveries, you can follow this website: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
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