Dr Sachin Kumar – Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Pulmonology, Sakra World Hospital
The nationwide lockdown has been extended again till June 30, 2020 in some cities. With the number of people getting infected and the death toll increasing every day, it is not yet certain whether the lockdown will be extended further or called off. It must be understood that our life post lockdown will not be the same as it was earlier. Coronavirus outbreak has completely changed our normal pace of life and post- lockdown it will be the time for us to get along with the new normal. Be it lockdown or no lockdown, it is essential we adapt ourselves to our new way of life that includes wearing masks and gloves whenever we step out, carry a sanitiser wherever we go and use it to disinfect our hands, sanitise our cars and the surfaces that we touch including our mobile phones on a regular basis, wear a different set of footwear when we step out and leave it outside before we step indoors, change our clothes and wash them each time we come in from outside, wash our hands and feet when we come back home, wash and disinfect groceries, food packets or anything that get delivered from outside and maintain safe physical distance from each other. The lockdown may be soon called off but one must ensure they maintain self-isolation as much as possible. Here are some tips on social distancing guidelines in public places.
Things to keep in mind while you travel
It is advised to not make any plans for international and domestic trips for the next few months. Now that the government has decided to allow the flights to operate from May 25, 2020, here are a few guidelines that one must follow to remain safe. It must be kept in mind that one must NOT travel unless it is an emergency.
International travel is a big NO for the next few months as it may increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. However, if the government decides to permit the airlines to conduct domestic travels and people have to step out of homes and travel within the country to meet an emergency, strict measures need to be taken to ensure social distancing and appropriate hygiene are maintained.
Measures must be taken to disinfect terminal buildings and staff and passengers must maintain adequate distance among each other once the lockdown is called off. Appointing adequate number of queuing managers at city side, check-in, security check areas and boarding gates along with social distancing signage must be made mandatory at the airports. Passengers should be asked to wear masks. Airport authorities must put signage in coloured tape and provide uneven sitting arrangements with gaps in between to make sure the passengers maintain safe distance among them. More seating arrangements must be provided in the check-in areas close to the check-in counters, immigration and security areas.
Airport premises must be cleaned thoroughly and more sanitation professionals should be deployed. Desks, chairs, railings, elevators, trolleys, handles, baggage belts, trays and more should be cleaned on a daily basis. Washrooms need to be shut and cleaned every hour. Steps should be taken to avoid overcrowding at the counters like self check-in facilities and check-in from homes. Social distancing norms and sanitisation should be maintained at lounges, food courts and shops. Facilities must be provided to isolate infected passengers at the airport and the airport staff must also be screened at the entry points. Seating arrangements inside the flight should be maintained in a way allowing adequate distance between two passengers. Also, passengers must be allowed to carry food on flights instead of serving in-flight dishes.
In case the government decides to resume passenger services in railways, it should be done in a phased manner and on specific approval of each train from the Railway Board. The routes of the trains must be speculated and the authority must make sure that the trains do not travel through or have halts at Covid-19 hotspots. Passenger safety must be the main focus of the authorities and steps must be taken to make sure the passengers wear masks and maintain the required distance among themselves inside the compartments to prevent spread of the deadly virus. The authority must adopt a strategy to screen every passenger before they board the train. Steps must be taken to avoid overcrowding at the stations as well.
Things to keep in mind while you visit restaurants, clubs, public toilets
Although most of us are bored sitting within the four walls and want to head out for hanging out with friends and dear ones, it is best to not do that now and remain at home. In case the government decides to open restaurants, clubs and other public spaces in near future, one must remember to follow the safety protocols while stepping out to minimise Coronavirus risk.
Here’s how the dining experience needs to change. Waiters must wear masks and gloves; sanitisation bottles must be kept at the entrance and arrangements for fewer tables at the restaurants must be made. The restaurant staff should be trained on keeping safe distance from the diners. Adequate distance must be maintained between tables and make seating arrangements with sufficient gap between two chairs. Only families coming in groups should be allowed to share tables. A microbiologist should be on-board for swab tests of surfaces, kitchen and kitchen staff. Additional focus must be given on maintaining cleanliness and hygiene and cutlery should be kept safe in cupboards and must be taken out only at the time of the use. Steps must be taken to ensure minimal surface contact in public spaces.
Precautions to take while travelling in a cab or sharing mobility
The government has allowed the app-based aggregators to become functional and cabs and autos have started plying on roads. While it is safer to avoid stepping out as much as possible, it is essential to follow certain protocols if one has to avail a cab/auto ride or share a ride.
- Try not to share a cab with those you do not live with.
- Wash hands immediately before and after
- Carry hand sanitiser with 60% alcohol and use it regularly while you travel.
- Carry a pack of antibacterial surface wipes to clean the surfaces you touch.
- Wear gloves and masks
- Put luggage in the boot of the car
- Clean the door handles, gear shifter, key fob, steering wheel, external touchpoints and the dashboard.
- Use online mode of payment instead of cash
- Maintain safe distance from the cabbies for both of your safety.
- Try and keep the front seat free.
In the present situation it is best for the employees to continue working from home. However, in case the workplaces are allowed to become functional, here are certain basic things that must be maintained.
- The company must allow its employees to work in shifts to prevent large gatherings of people in one place.
- Surfaces like desks and tables and objects that are regularly touched need to be wiped and disinfected regularly.
- Sanitising hand rub dispensers must be put in prominent places around the workplace and the dispensers must be refilled at regular intervals.
- Posters promoting handwashing and respiratory hygiene must be displayed in public.
- Face masks and paper tissues must be made available at the workplace.
- Employees with flu-like symptoms must be given immediate leave and must be asked to remain at home.
Some essential don’ts post lockdown
- It is wise to not plan a vacation for the next few months immediately after the lockdown is removed. It must be realised that movement of people from one country to another resulted in the disastrous spread of Covid-19.
- Do not give up on practicing hand hygiene. Regular and frequent washing of hands can keep not just Coronavirus but other diseases at bay as well.
- Do not visit crowded restaurants and clubs for snacking and chilling out. It is wise to avoid large social gatherings in cafes and clubs. Also, do not organise for a house party with a large number of people coming in together. It is essential to avoid large social gatherings for the next few months.
- Do not skip using face masks and do not give up maintaining respiratory hygiene in public places.
Prevention is always better than cure and it is smarter to take adequate preventive measures than to contract infection.