Despite lots of countries making strides to keep coronavirus under control, the fact is that this bug is still out there. At the moment, it’s not currently known how many of us have immunity to it. Estimates vary widely, and there’s a lot of speculation going on. Governments are trying to balance sustaining economies with the healthcare challenges faced, by easing lockdown restrictions. In doing so, opportunities are provided to transmit the virus to those who are still susceptible, resulting in increasing numbers of new cases. The true picture is also confused by approaches to testing for the virus – the more people you test, the more cases you will find. But is a second wave inevitable?
It seems that the jury is still out on this issue. And when it comes to pandemics, there’s no formal definition of what constitutes a ‘wave.’ The term gets used arbitrarily, however we generally interpret it to mean sustained fluctuations in the number of infections – going up then coming back down again. Rapidly identifying emergent clusters and taking measures to prevent further spread are key to keeping control, but what can you do to protect yourself and others?
- Know the symptoms – according to the old adage ‘knowledge is power’; make sure you are aware of the symptoms of coronavirus so you can act quickly. The NHS has listed three main symptoms: a new, continuous cough, where you cough a lot for more than an hour, or have three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours, fever – where your temperature is above 37.8C, and loss of smell or taste.
- Get tested if you have the symptoms – latest NHS advice as of the 31st July is that people who are symptomatic should get tested. You shouldn’t wait; apply for a test as soon as you can as you need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. Either book a visit to a test site or order a test online. Note however that if it’s day 5 of symptoms, to get a test you’ll have to go to a test site.
- Stay at home – if you are getting a test because of symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you get your result. Anyone in your support bubble [where someone who lives alone, or just with their children can meet people from one other household] should also self-isolate. The latest rules state self-isolate for at least 10 days if you have symptoms or have tested positive; it’s 14 days if you live with (or are in a support bubble with) someone who has symptoms or has tested positive. NHS track and trace may also advise self-isolation if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus.
- Regular handwashing with soap and water is important – Coronavirus spreads by small droplets that are packed with the virus being expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As well as being inhaled, these droplets can land on objects and surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. People then get infected by touching these objects then touching their nose, mouth or eyes. This is why handwashing is so important. Make sure you stick to the 20 second rule.
- Catch it and bin it! – If you do have coughs and sneezes, use a disposable tissue and throw away used tissues promptly.
- Keep up to date with developments from reputable sources – the NHS and UK government regularly update their information and guidance (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus); stick to these sources for the best advice on health and other social and work activities, including wearing face masks.
The above information constitutes general advice, and the situation continues to change. Both the NHS and UK Government provide comprehensive information about coronavirus that can be accessed using the links above. If you are concerned about your health or well-being then contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible.