To live with corona

To live with corona

Ghazi Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan defended the government’s decision to lift the COVID-19-induced lockdown saying that the novel coronavirus was here to stay and the nation would have to learn to live with it. He was referring to scientists who say that there will be no vaccine [for the virus] this year. We will have to learn to live with it. It means life will go on and the only option available for us is to take precautionary measures if we want to protect ourselves from coronavirus.

In our society there are segments of people who are more susceptible even in normal situations. In wake of COVID-19 their vulnerability has been further heightened based on factors such as wealth, people with different ability, mobility, age and gender etc. But its impact is obviously visible on different category of people related to their financial positions.

For the well-to-do class, in current corona situation, there is a change of life style means starting working from home, connecting with their kith and kin through internet and mobile phones and postponement of functions and foreign trips. But for poor and working class people it matters a lot to them. The lockdown in the country has severely impacted their lives and it proved a new chain in their necks. The working class people hit hard by the crisis as they faced the dilemma of do or die situation. They compelled to choose between two extremes; staying at home and letting their family be hungry, or going out to earn a livelihood to feed their kids they are facing the brunt of law enforcement agencies. Resultantly, majority of daily wagers have been beaten and arrested by the law enforcement personnel in violations of lockdowns measures. If someone luckily escaped from it the virus is waiting to embrace them which brings them to this awkward situation like never before.

There is an interesting study published recently which showed that coronavirus is eminently capable of spreading through speech. The study further revealed that micro-droplets generated by speech can remain suspended in the air in an enclosed space for more than 10 minutes, understanding their likely role in spreading COVID-19. Researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) shared that light scattering observation of airborne speech droplets generated by a 25 seconds burst of repeatedly speaking the phrase “stay healthy” in a loud voice. This means that a person loudly repeats the phrase “stay healthy” remain for 25 seconds inside a closed box.

A laser projected into the box illuminated droplets, allowing them to be seen and counted. They stayed in the air for an average of 12 minutes, the study published in the national Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) showed. This study measured the size and spread of oral fluid droplets using a laser. It convincingly shows that normal speech generates airborne droplets that can remain suspended in the air for tens of minutes or longer. This suggests that a virus from an infected individual could be transmitted this way in confined spaces.

Taking into account the known concentration of coronavirus in saliva, scientists estimated that each minute of loudly speaking can generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets capable of remaining airborne for eight minutes or more in a closed space. “This direct visualization demonstrates how normal speech generates airborne droplets that can remain suspended for tens of minutes or longer and are eminently capable of transmitting disease in confined spaces” the researchers conclude. The same team had observed that speaking less loudly generates fewer droplets, in a work published in the New England Journal of Medicines in April 2020.

The study is novel and supports the view that respiratory and aerosol transmission are significant mechanisms of virus spread. “It adds weight to the need for social distancing and raises important issues about the potential for the virus to spread in confined spaces such as offices and factories. It also highlights the problem of virus transmission from infected individuals who do not have symptoms.”

The WHO also revealed that the coronavirus may never go away and populations will have to learn to live with it as they have HIV. In this regard the government has also announced that the government will make it mandatory for the public to wear masks. The step has been taken because the COVID-19 lockdown has been eased and people are gathering in public spaces. It means we have to make ourselves familiar to observe these measures such as non-contact greetings; perform hand hygiene frequently; enhance environmental hygiene; maintaining a social distance of one meter when in public places, one should wear a face mask, stay home if you are ill, except to obtain medical care and we should seek immediate medical care if you have a high fever and shortness of breath.

These revelations shown by the studies are the eye-opener for all of us as the government is easing lockdown restrictions despite the spike in death and infection curves is extremely troubling. We have observed that despite restrictions people continued to perform congregational prayers in big mosques. After easing of lockdowns by the government people throng to bazaars regardless to follow any SOPs. It is a big question mark for us that how the public will maintain these measures in the coming days when traveling in public transports, sharing of rooms in offices, public dealings, working in factories, hotels and restaurants, places of worship, and during celebrations of festivals.

If we consider that speech is the source of spreading coronavirus then it will slow the pace of life which is the very opposite of the famous phrase that life is so fast in cities. For example, if a person left a closed space including room, hall, bus, airplane, etc then the other person should wait for at least 10-12 minutes till the droplets settle or disappear.

It is very much true that life after the corona pandemic will not remain the same. The revelations shown by the studies will bring watershed changes in human relations in the future. Mode and modalities of our political, social, and religious festivals and gatherings will be transformed. These activities should be conducted under certain precautionary measures and with low profiles.

Similarly, the speakers should refrain themselves from delivering loudly emotional speeches in public places. They should lower the pitch of their voice while speaking in front of audiences in closed spaces. These protocols should be included in devising SOPs while easing the lockdowns further and should be followed in our daily lives in letter and spirit to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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