“Social distancing measures can help to reduce COVID-19 transmission and enable health systems to cope. Handwashing and coughing into your elbow can reduce the risk for yourself and others. But on their own, they are not enough to extinguish this pandemic. It’s the combination that makes the difference. All countries must take a comprehensive approach. We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.” – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the most trending and dreaded topic across the world in the present times. With more than 12,14,460 cases and 67,760 deaths across 211 countries, this pandemic is burning the world down at an alarming scale. It has forced us to make drastic changes in our lifestyles. Through this article, I would like to touch several aspects of this rapidly spreading viral illness since it is only through proper awareness and positivity that we would be able to defeat this crisis. As it is said – rising like a Phoenix from the ashes!
When visualized under the microscope, the virus looks like there is a crown on top of it and hence, it got the name corona which means crown). It mainly spreads through respiratory droplets from person to person when they cough or sneeze. Once these droplets land on a surface, people touching that surface can also get infected. Since this virus is new, scientists are still learning about its behavior. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can result in pneumonia, septic shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, and death. Laboratory tests confirming the diagnosis of this disease are available. As of now, it does not have a treatment and the sick are receiving supportive measures that relieve the symptoms. There is no vaccine available, although many organizations across the world are working to develop the treatment and vaccine soon.
Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds at least – use hand sanitizer if soap + water is not available. Do not touch the face with unwashed hands. Use your elbow or a tissue to cover sneezes/coughs and then discard it into a dustbin quickly. In case of illness, stay at home. Frequently disinfect surfaces and objects touched by people. Minimize close contact among individuals to curtail the spread of the disease. Some social distancing methods include quarantines, travel restrictions, the closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theatres, and shopping centers, avoiding crowded areas, staying at home, physically distancing oneself from others and not shaking hands.
In the present scenario, thousands of patients are showing up in emergency rooms, which is enough to overwhelm the healthcare workforce at an alarming rate. Pandemics and epidemics hit the healthcare systems hardest. Also, they are the first ones to get exposed. As soon as they get sick, they need to be quarantined, so that the infection does not spread to others. It leads to a decrease in the number of available healthcare workers when the world needs them the most. Next follow significant problems like the availability of enough ICU beds, ventilators, and hospitals. All these needs are very difficult to flex up rapidly. It is these issues and concerns that aptly explain why flattening of the COVID-19 curve is so important.
A very large number of educational institutes are modifying their operations and strategies across the globe. The motive is to protect their students as well as others. Examinations and interviews have been postponed or converted to online mode.
Several schools, colleges, and universities have migrated their classes online. Major meetings, travel programs, and academic conferences have been canceled. Critical communications about basic health information and important announcements related to COVID-19 are being regularly released on their portals.
It is the practice of doing work for an extended time outside one’s office. Many professional organizations of the world have implemented this concept of work-from-home to limit the spread of COVID-19. It is becoming very popular and is a new reality today for many. Following a few simple steps can make this experience quite beneficial and successful. The most crucial one is having defined expectations for everyday interactions with your boss. Secondly, it is useful to turn a small part of your home into your workspace and establish and follow a routine. Similarly, communication with colleagues, through video chats, calls, and manager check-ins, instils motivation and aids in combating depression due to isolation.
At this time, we must keep in mind that for some to be safe, others are physically going to work, and taking serious risks. So, those who can work from home should socially isolate themselves for these people who are out there fighting this pandemic on ground zero. We all should consider this as something we are doing for each other. We all can conquer corona if everyone does their part effectively.
The worldwide destruction caused by COVID-19 is demanding stricter measures day-by-day. These involve isolating individuals/families from one another (infected or not) in their homes (or hospitals), as an effort to prevent further damage. Another step is to have a gap of more than six feet while talking to others. The aim is to avoid any physical contact with other people.
On proper implementation, these social distancing measures can significantly lower the spread of the virus. But they also have negative impacts. Isolation and quarantine lead to problems like poor concentration, anxiety, indecisiveness, irritability, depression, insomnia, and high psychological distress, lower immunity, exhaustion, poor cardiovascular health, emotional disturbance, cabin fever, and mood swings, to name a few. These issues affect the general public and medical professionals alike. There are several long-term ill-effects, apart from the immediate and short-term psychological effects, ranging from post-traumatic stress to professional and social avoidance, even after the completion of the isolation-period.
Specific steps can mitigate some negative psychological health impacts of isolation. To begin with, quarantined people should be able to understand their situation and tell the difference between misinformation and facts. Regular communication with your loved ones via texts, video chats, calls, and different social media platforms is a must as it helps to overcome the feeling of isolation. Having a balanced and nutritious diet, regular physical activity, structuring our time properly, and planning out exciting things to do keeps everyone busy and away from the monotony of mass-lockdowns. An important point – adults talking to kids about such crises in a reassuring manner helps calm their fears. Keeping the brain busy aids in putting the anxieties to rest. Participating in interesting online/offline activities and different entertainment forms are the things to look forward to every day. The key is really in physical distancing – it’s still possible to remain connected socially through technology that gives us various virtual and remote ways of keeping in touch.
In these critical times, doing some fact-checking homework is a necessary sanity check for any information that comes via social media or platforms like WhatsApp. It is best to place trust in organizations like the WHO and country-specific health departments. It is also essential to create strict time limitations on watching the latest news updates. People should avoid trying to engulf everything on social media, television, and the internet related to COVID-19. It creates panic and is exhausting. Everyone should employ good information hygiene and should shut the doors on baseless, depressing rumors and exaggerated conspiracy theories.
The changes caused by this illness are scary and overwhelming, but we will make it through. We should continue forward with the thinking that we have fought even worse diseases and come back. The present change is going to be hard, but the world should have faith. If we were able to take the last step, then we will resiliently take the next one too.
In such depressing and anxious times, there are some tales and efforts giving us hope that we will overcome this situation. The society needs to focus on such news and instances as these are an effective means to combat the negativity associated with COVID-19.
The first is the news of a virologist from India. On 26th March 2020, the first made-in-India coronavirus testing kits reached the market. It raised hopes of an increase in testing to confirm or rule out the COVID-19 infection. This kit, known as Patho Detect, was made by Minal Dakhave Bhosale’s research team, who is a virologist at the Mylab Discovery. Designed in a record time of six weeks, it completes the diagnosis in 2.5 hours. The best part – Minal submitted the kit for evaluation by the National Institute of Virology, just a day before delivering her daughter.
The second is the news about the launch of CovidGyan. The premier scientific institutes of India have launched a multi-lingual and multi-institutional science communication portal to filter out coronavirus related misinformation. It comprises up-to-date information and the latest research on the pandemic, along with short videos and webinars on how to tackle the spread of COVID-19, and interviews and podcasts with experts to better understand various aspects of this outbreak.
As an effort to stay optimistic and creative, IIT Gandhinagar recently launched Project Isaac. The Institute is making active efforts to enhance the critical skills of its students while they are confined to their rooms and homes. This project strives to motivate them to dream and achieve wondrous and ambitious things. Housing several fun and exciting contests with daily prizes, it encourages them to cultivate new skills in writing, painting, coding, music, and creative expression, to name a few. Inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, who made some of his most profound discoveries during his quarantine period at the time of the Great Plague of London in 1665, this initiative is a model for academic institutions worldwide to explore ways to positively engage students amid a fearful pandemic.
I, like everyone in India and many others around the world, am practicing social distancing. I am in lockdown with my family and am working remotely. I would like to mention here that my boss and mentor (Prof Neeldhara Misra, IIT Gandhinagar) is really helping me give my best. It is crucial to have an understanding supervisor – be it in work or studies – in the present times! I try to follow the dos and don’ts related to this pandemic as mentioned by credible national and international sources. I understand that prevention is way better than cure. This is the best time to connect (of course, virtually!) with the near and dear ones and I am doing just that. I am spending more time with my family and believe me… it is really calming in such times of distress. I watch the news updates to know what is going around the world, but not more than 30 min. After all, the motive is to enhance awareness, not anxiety and panic! I am trying to stay positive by reading inspirational stories, listening to podcasts and pursuing my passion for writing, now more than ever. This write-up is my attempt to inform the readers of the severity of this disease as well as the fact that if we follow the rules, stay healthy, have accurate information and believe in positivity, we will overcome COVID-19 – united across boundaries as one!
Stay Home! Stay Safe!
“Be informed, be prepared, be smart, be safe. Be ready to fight COVID-19.” — World Health Organization