Stand up — your country needs you

Arise, this is war: A lady crosses Uhuru highway in Nairobi on Monday, April 06, 2020. [Collins Kweyu. Standard]

The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a one metre physical distance from the next person to avoid contracting coronavirus or spreading it.But keeping physical distance is not the same as keeping social distance-that time-tested vital link between human beings that has seen them form and maintain bonds even when they do not meet face to face.In these trying times, we must maintain social interactions as much as possible.Through all the technological and social media options available, keep in touch with family and friends during this season of coronavirus pandemic.

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This for the sake of your mental health and relationships that have taken years to build.But, however, strongly feel about these relationships or others you form along the way, the WHO physical distance of one metre must be respected if the war on coronavirus is to be won.

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A month into the coronavirus pandemic, Kenya is still experiencing a rise in the numbers of infection cases with Ministry of Health officials warning that the situation can only get worse.The numbers of those infected will get higher and, based on trends from other countries, and the possibility of more deaths remains even more real.

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So far, Kenya has lost six people aged between six and 67. The number of those infected currently stands at 179. Only nine have recovered. The only way to keep these numbers low and to prevent further deaths would be to strictly follow the public health guidelines issued by the Government. The Ministry of Health and other government agencies have issued wide ranging directives to try and keep the virus at bay. However, without the participation of the people, all these will fail.

Globally, countries that have respected laid out health and public order guidelines such as South Korea and China have seen a drop in the numbers of infections.On the other hand, countries that took too long to institute public guidelines during the world’s most trying times are struggling with high rates of infections and unimaginable death tolls.

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In Italy, France, Spain and now the United Kingdom, the disease has had devastating effect, with the death toll in Spain at some point peaking at close to 1,500 within 24 hours.The WHO recommends physical distancing, not social distancing as a key measure to keep the coronavirus away.The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance from others when possible.”The most recent recommendation is to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Physical distance because people are still socially interacting and keeping touch with each other via mobile phones and the social media.

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While it is best that you do not visit your grandparents for example, nothing stops you from doing a video call with them to check on them and how they are doing during this pandemic.In fact, it is recommended that all of us maintain contact with family and friends to reduce the severity of socio-economic stresses that comes with the pandemic.Humans are social beings, without which mental health is compromised. Africans in particular are used to close family units that interact and engage regularly.

Physical distance While physical meetings are discouraged, people can still meet online and still maintain the relationships that have taken years to build without their fabric being broken by coronavirus. Countries such as South Korea that are enjoying some level of success in fighting the virus have achieved this by maintaining physical distance at all times. Scientists advice that one should maintain at least a one metre distance between themselves and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

This is because when someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets through their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including Covid-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease and end up infected. With this also comes good respiratory hygiene. You are advised to make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene.

Stick to guidelines This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the used tissue immediately. This is important in protecting the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and Covid-19 that we are currently at war with. The second and most basic thing to keep the virus away is observing high levels of hygiene. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Research, including that published by WHO, shows that washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands, not just the coronavirus. We have been socialised to scratch where we itch. But coronavirus has so far proven to be a counter-cultural disease. Now, virologists advise that you should avoid touching your mouth, eyes and noses at whatever cost. This is because hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and make you sick.

There are other guidelines though that have been issued by the Government in case you fall sick. The most important one is to stay home if you feel unwell. However, if you have a fever, cough and are experiencing difficulty in breathing, quarantine yourself and seek medical attention by calling 719. This will help prevent the spread of the virus. Unlike the many other times when we get to call on the government for help, this is the one time when the government gets to call on you to help it keep you and your loved ones safe.

Are you suspecting that you have coronavirus? Before you rush to the hospital, do this quick easy self-assessment test. #StayHome #WashYourHands HERE.