Our only weapon against Covid-19 is ‘social distancing’ - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Our only weapon against Covid-19 is ‘social distancing’

The coronavirus outbreak first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan where 11 million people live. While the Chinese government did not want to acknowledge the outbreak at first, it was later forced to take drastic measures.

Now the epidemic has been brought under control in China. It is a fact that around 5 million people who left Wuhan before being quarantined spread the virus to various countries. According to experts, if the Wuhan quarantine was introduced just three weeks prior, the number of cases would have decreased by 95 percent, thus the geographical spread of the disease would have been significantly curbed.

The Chinese government indeed acted very poorly toward Doctor Li Wenliang, who sounded the alarm about the outbreak in Wuhan back in December, and accused him of spreading false rumors. Other doctors were just as badly treated. Doctor Li himself was also infected and died on Feb. 6. Although Chinese officials apologized to Li’s family, the outbreak had spread to other countries and became a global pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, argued that the outbreak was an ordinary flu pandemic and would recede on its own when temperatures began to warm. Now the situation in the U.S. is on a very dangerous trend. The World Health Organization (WHO) even warned that the U.S. has become the new epicenter of the pandemic.

We don’t yet have sufficient knowledge about the new strain of coranavirus. The whole world is racing against the clock. Quarantining, hand-washing as well as social distancing to limit physical contact are the only tools we have to protect ourselves against the pandemic. Social distancing is not a cure, but it is the only known way to flatten the curve.

Undoubtedly, more responsibility to adhere to social distancing lies with younger people. Even if they are less vulnerable than the elderly, youngsters are also threatened by this virus. The bigger threat is that the youth may be carriers of the disease. Therefore, more than anyone else, young people should stay home and abide by the rules of social distancing.

Public health professionals all over the world have repeatedly stressed that our best chance to slow down the outbreak is to strictly follow the rules of social distancing. The way to win this war is through slowing down the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is the only option we have under the current circumstances.

Loosening social distancing rules before the time is right can cause the epidemic to rapidly spread again. This can even lead to more deaths. Social distancing is also of great importance when it comes to providing medical staff with enough time and resources needed in combating the pandemic.

Upon reducing the number of cases to a manageable level, it will then be possible to safely relax measures. By adhering to the rules of social distancing, a more sustainable strategy could be adopted.

It is of the utmost importance to identify the locations where the virus is spreading, to diagnose those infected and then quarantine them, since one can be asymptomatic or develop milder symptoms.

More important still is the need for tests and publicly trained staff that could churn out results in a matter of minutes.

Comparisons between measures taken during previous outbreaks and ones taken against newer ones show how important it is to comply with the rules of social distancing. American economists Sergio Correia, Stephan Luck, and Emil Verner have extensively studied regions hardest hit by the "Spanish Flu" pandemic in 1918.

According to their findings, cities that meticulously followed the rules of social distancing not only survived the pandemic but their economies had recovered much faster. Indeed, countries that have strictly complied with similar measures now seem to have managed to keep the epidemic at a manageable level.

Historical experience is also paramount. Today's younger generations will carry their experiences to their offspring.

The pandemic that the human race is currently experiencing is not the first. Let's act while keeping in mind that all those sacrifices weren’t for nothing. Let's not drop our guard, despair, and instead remain vigilant and patient. Let's trust the experience of science and history. Let's hold down the fort. Be strong, stay home.

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