Coronavirus outbreak: Health authorities prescribe 'social distancing' as way to keep spread of COVID-19 in check; what does it entail?

With cases of the novel coronavirus in India increasing to 114 on Monday, the Centre and state governments are doubling down on measures to curb the spread of the flu-like disease.

Worldwide, the disease has claimed over 5,000 lives and has infected at least one lakh people.

With the World Health Organisation characterising the spread of the COVID-19 as a 'pandemic', one of the measures being recommended by health and governance authorities across the world is 'social distancing', which is to "reduce the frequency of large gatherings" and limiting the scope of in-person interactions.

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 Coronavirus outbreak: Health authorities prescribe social distancing as way to keep spread of COVID-19 in check; what does it entail?

Representational image. PTI

What is social distancing?

"Social distancing refers to measures that are taken to increase the physical space between people to slow the spread of the virus. Examples include working from home, school closures, and the postponement or cancellation of mass gatherings," a report by The Times of India said.

Social distancing is also a method prescribed to check the spread of the COVID-19 so that the healthcare system is equipped to treat existing patients. Around the world, including in several Indian cities, governments have recommended that companies should allow employees to work from home, and schools and universities have been shut for a period of a few weeks.

Facilities like malls, theatres, gyms, swimming pools, libraries, museums have also shut in view of curbing the spread of the infection.

Events like concerts, awards functions, conferences, sports events, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed. The US Centers for Disease Control issued an advisory as saying, "(Social distancing is) ...reducing the frequency of large gatherings and limiting the number of attendees; limiting inter-school interactions; and considering distance or e-learning in some settings."

Why is it necessary?

Social distancing is necessary in the case of the COVID-19 virus because, as it's not as fatal as diseases like bird flu or H5N1, it is tougher to contain, The Indian Express reported. This is because of the relatively "milder" symptoms, which are cold, cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

"With milder symptoms, the infected are more likely to be active and still spreading the virus. For example, more than half the cases aboard a cruise ship that has docked in California did not exhibit any symptoms," the report said.

A WHO briefing was quoted as saying, "Action must be taken to prevent transmission at the community level to reduce the epidemic to manageable clusters.”

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Mar 16, 2020 18:52:06 IST



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