It sprints silently, transfers swiftly – One of the frightening features of Covid-19 is the speed at which it can travel.
We know a lot about this strain of coronavirus today compared to what we knew at the start of this year. And yet, we know very little.
For instance, we know that there is about 95% similarity between Corovid-19 and SARS, and that is why it is sometimes called SARS-2. This is an important bit of information but the scientists have so far not found any solutions based on this fact alone.
Similarly, we know that the humans and chimpanzees share nearly 99% of DNA. It is interesting – and humbling – to know that we are still almost apes but that doesn’t allow us to prescribe the same medicines in similar dozes for people and chimpanzees. Imagine putting the people and the chimpanzees in the same ward of a hospital!
What we know for sure about Corovid-19 is that it hops from carrier to carrier.
It can survive on different kinds of surfaces such as door handles, currency notes, crockery etc. for up to a few days. It can also survive for about three hours in the atmosphere.
The people are the main carriers of Corovid-19. It can transfer when the people shake hands or embrace. It can transfer when an infected person coughs or sneezes in the vicinity (less than 1.5 meters) of a healthy person.
We know that systemic and lifestyle changes to minimize physical contact and the practice of social distancing are vital for containing this virus.
Turkmenistan is doing this in a subtle manner. Right from the president down to the kindergarteners there is a sense of awareness and responsibility. The purpose is to exercise precautions without disrupting the regular functioning of the society. This seems to be working because so far there are no reported cases of Corovid-19 in Turkmenistan.
For example, President Berdimuhamedov had a telephone conversation with President Ghani of Afghanistan on Tuesday (24 March 2020) congratulating him on his reelection. They discussed a wide range of issues including TAPI during the phone talks. This is equivalent to a face-to-face meeting.
The foreign ministers of Turkmenistan and Turkey had phone talks on the same day and it was also equivalent to a physical meeting in terms of outcome.
The Turkmen president regularly holds meetings through the video link.
The Nowruz celebrations were scaled down to avoid large gatherings of people at any one place.
The major league football championship in Turkmenistan has been postponed.
The road transportation of cargo through the territory of Turkmenistan will temporarily be made only by the Turkmen carriers.
The temperature of people is checked at entry/exit points of major population centres.
* * *
The awareness campaign through the media is also showing its effect on the society. The people are responding.
On Tuesday (24 March 2020) afternoon I took a walk from the circus to the Iranian embassy in Ashgabat. It was very interesting.
The people at bus stops were standing or sitting at some distance from each other. Some of them were talking but none of them were huddled together. They were practicing social distancing.
The people strolling on the sidewalk were maintaining distance from each other.
A young mom and her little daughter were walking ahead of me. The mother said to her daughter, ‘when you sneeze, do like this,’ and she pretend-sneezed into the crook of her elbow.
“In your elbow?” the daughter asked excitedly.
“No, silly, in your own elbow,” said the mom.
There are three pharmacies on this stretch of road. I went to one of them to buy some nasal gel.
What I noticed immediately was that a bandage soaked in some antiseptic solution had been wrapped around the door handle.
“We change it every hour,” said the girl at the counter.
She advised that everyone should wipe the door handles at their homes several times a day with an antibacterial wet wipe.
While I was buying the nasal gel, another customer entered the pharmacy and stood about a meter behind me. The social distancing on its way to becoming a norm, a habit.
I peeked into the barber shop that I sometimes visit. Some chairs had been removed to create distance between the chairs. The door handle of the barber shop was also covered with white muslin soaked in some antiseptic liquid. It was spotless; there were no stains. Presumably the barber shop management was also changing it every hour or so.
Social distancing, minimization of physical contact, and basic hygiene, these are the most effective tools against the Corovid-19. There is understanding and appreciation of this in Turkmenistan.
* * *
There are many mathematical models proving the effectiveness of social distancing against Corovid-19.
The Belgian virologist Guido Vanham, the former head of virology at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, has given some calculations.
He has also given quite a bit of other helpful information. For more information:
A virology expert answers key questions on COVID-19
World Economic Forum – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/covid-19-explained-virology-expert/
* * *
Social distancing must go together with minimization of physical contact if we are to slow down, and ultimately halt the spread of Corovid-19.
Handshake is the most common form of physical contact. It is also the most efficient method of transfer of Covid-19 from carrier to carrier.
Here is what Howard LeWine, M.D. the Chief Medical Editor of Harvard Publishing writes in an article:
The handshake is an important way that many people communicate nonverbally. It’s a standard gesture when we say hello, goodbye, and make an agreement. We’ve been doing it for millennia.
Image credit – NPR
But hands carry germs that can spread infections to others. And some of these infections can be very serious, including those that can’t be killed by standard antibiotics. Is it time to consider changing the tradition of shaking hands?
Two researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales make the case that handshaking exchanges a lot more germs than a modern alternative, the fist bump.
Their experiment was simple. Both researchers put sterile gloves on their right hands. One dipped the gloved hand into a contained filled with a solution teeming with harmless E. coli bacteria. Then they shook hands and measured the number of bacteria on the glove that had not been dipped in the E. coli solution. They did the same thing for high fives and fist bumps.
Shaking hands transmitted 2 times more bacteria than high fives, and 10 times more bacteria than bumping fists. Their results are published in the August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
Fist bump better than handshake for cleanliness
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Posted on 29 July 2014, Updated on 30 July 2014
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fist-bump-better-handshake-cleanliness-201407297305
* * *
It would be advisable for Turkmenistan to continue with its awareness campaign and encourage the people to make it a habit to exercise social distancing, minimization of physical contact, and preventive hygiene.
This Covid-19 will be defeated only if every country and every society contributes actively, systematically. This demands some important adjustments in the lifestyle and social interaction models. /// nCa, 25 March 2020