One of the most effective measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus or any contagious disease is social distancing. Yet in societies like ours where there is a lack of public awareness, civic sense, and consciousness, even simple precautions are not being followed.
Social distancing measures are taken to restrict when and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread of a disease discouraging large gatherings and canceling events. Since a pandemic cannot be stopped once it has started, social distancing is the most effective measure to slow down the spread and give time to the community to be prepared.
This has worked in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, and authorities took drastic measures, shutting down all forms of activity. There have been no new cases in the city, field hospitals are closed, and health experts have left the area. This clearly shows that the virus can be defeated when suppressed.
Another example is South Korea which was taking preventive measures until one person, now identified as Patient 31, mislead authorities and lied about contracting the virus. This formed new clusters and the virus spread. Now South Korea is one of the worst affected countries but has found success due to aggressive screening tests. Similarly in Malaysia, the virus spread after a mass religious gathering of around 16,000 people was held disregarding orders and the situation went out of control.
This shows that social distancing can only succeed to defeat a pandemic when everyone participates. Schools may be closed in Pakistan but many companies remain open due to the risk of financial losses. Workplaces should adopt flexible routines and only allow essential staff while enforcing a work from home policy. The health and safety of workers should be prioritized over such gains.
Social distancing should also be adopted personally by maintaining a distance of six to ten feet apart. This may be difficult during congregations in places on worship but could be necessary. Many countries such as UAE and Saudi Arabia have suspended prayers at mosques. There have guidelines issued such as limiting sermons, maintain distancing, and even praying from home if you are unwell.
During a pandemic, it is critical to understand what you might be required to do. Even simple steps such as practicing good hygiene habits, washing your hands, and covering your cough help during the outbreak. These precautions are for our own benefit and should be followed rather than finding ways to break the rules. The best measure is to self-isolate yourself to help suppress the disease and save lives.