It’s been two years and nine months since COVID-19 dawned upon us. At the time of this writing, the death toll in Sri Lanka rests at 9,185 while 440,302 new patients have been discovered and 374,156 patients have recovered. Globally these numbers rest at 218,560,832 deaths, 4,534,054 new patients and 195,396,563 recovered patients. Virologists have discovered four variants of the virus known as GISAID, Nextstrain, Pango, and GammaCov so far (Aliases: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma). Experts have found three variants spreading in Sri Lanka.
Some patients after recovery have said, they caught the virus despite following all the safety precautions. Such as wearing facemasks, staying indoors, maintaining social distancing, sanitizing, washing hands, and finally vaccination. This made me wonder, how can people get infected after adhering to health guidelines so strictly. I believe it’s because there are six other safeguards against COVID-19 that we often ignore. Given below are those safeguards which you can start following from today.
1. Minimize Cash Transactions
It’s general knowledge that currency notes are vehicles for bacteria and viruses. It’s the reason why in certain countries currency notes are regularly sanitized. A practice that exists since long before the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. According to studies the deadly Coronavirus can survive on currency notes for up to 28 days.
It’s the reason why I use card payments when travelling with PickMe and Uber or ordering from PickMe Food and UberEats. When grocery shopping online I always set a credit/debit card as the payment method because selecting COD (Cash on Delivery) defeats the purpose of shopping online as a safeguard. If you must use cash because “චූන් පාන් මල්ලි” (“choon paan malli” – a nickname used for local bread sellers going door to door selling baked items) doesn’t accept card payments, sanitize your hands soon after the purchase.
Now you might say, “Bacteria and Viruses can survive on plastic surfaces also.” Fortunately, major card payment providers like Visa, MasterCard, and Amex introduced contactless transactions for their cards long before COVID-19 became a concern. All you need to do is tap your card on the terminal and technology will do the rest. You don’t have to hand over your card to the cashier.
Almost every POS terminal supports this feature. If both your card and the POS Terminal bear the payWave logo you are good to go. For more information, you can visit this page on the official Pay with Visa Website. The only drawback is if the bill value exceeds Rs. 7,500/- you must authorize the payment by placing your signature. Using the stationaries placed at a cashier for signing the payment slip is another risk but more on that later.
2. Reduce ATM Transactions
ATMs are accessed by thousands of people every day making them vehicles for bacteria and viruses. Although most financial institutes keep sanitisers near their ATMs, they disappear into thin air very soon because a handful of Sri Lankans although educated in their minds are not so educated in their hearts. so keep a small bottle of sanitiser handy in your pocket or the handbag.
Nevertheless, it’s best to minimize ATM transactions as much as possible by withdrawing extra cash in a single withdrawal. If you must access the ATM, see to it that you sanitize your hands as quickly as possible.
3. Don’t keep anything in Common
We Sri Lankans can hardly get through the day without a good cup of Ceylon tea in the morning and evening. Tea keeps us energized and awake. Therefore, most offices in Sri Lanka serve tea to their employees twice a day. In my office, you can even borrow a cup if you don’t have your own. Now that is a risk because a COVID positive person may have drunk from the same cup before. Therefore, it’s strongly advisable to have your own cup. Also, a plate if your employer serves lunch. (I don’t have to talk about eating at restaurants, right?)
There are many other things that we keep in common or use on a shared basis such as stationaries. Always keep a pen on you. Don’t use the pen provided to you by the cashier when signing your card payment slips at Super Markets. Definitely, not the pen and paper being given to you for writing down your contact details. If you have a smartphone, install the contact tracing application or signup with SMS (the developers have patched the vulnerability in the app now.) If you are sharing a telephone in the office, consider using the speakerphone. Sanitize the keypad, mouthpiece, and earpiece frequently. The same goes for mobile phones. Don’t lend your mobile phone because the Coronavirus can last up to 28 days on a smartphone display.
The same goes for shared electronic devices such as computers. I work in a studio environment where I must use headphones and shared devices for editing. To reduce the risk of an infection, I use my JBL BT 500 headphones and sanitize my hands before and after using the keyboards and mice.
4. Use the right facemasks the Right Way
When outdoors, sometimes your facemask can be the only defence between you and COVID-19. Unfortunately, most of us wear a facemask to avoid being arrested by the Police, blame by the public, or dodge a trip to “කන්දකාඩු” (“Kandakadu” – a quarantine centre disliked by many).
I have seen some men wearing cheap facemasks and some women wearing facemasks that are fashionable but incapable of protecting them from infection. Others wear it below the nostrils. See to it your nose and mouth are fully covered. Doctors recommend wearing an N95 Surgical Mask because it’s more effective in protecting the wearer. Also, don’t use the same face mask for an extended period. You can order a pack of 10pcs for under Rs. 500/- (approx. 2.50 USD)
5. Stay safe even after Vaccination
I am sorry to break the bubble but not even all the vaccines in the world can protect you unless you take care of yourself. What an unpleasant surprise! Not because vaccines are ineffective but the way our body works with the vaccine.
According to an article Iman Saleem has published on “roarmedia” based on a report from World Health Organization (WHO), Sri Lanka, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after the vaccination. This means a person can become infected with the virus just before or just after vaccination and become sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
6. Exercise Common Sense Please
It wasn’t very long ago a politician who was distributing free facemasks took his off and gave them away when he had none left to distribute. He probably thought it will win him a few more votes in the upcoming elections. It goes to show how uncommon is common sense among some people. The trouble is it’s not only themselves that they risk but everyone around them as well.
In the event, you want to disregard quarantine laws or abstain from the vaccine on grounds of religious reasons (you might want to stop here because I shall not apologize for what I am going to say next) I advise you to grab the sacred book corresponding to your religion and hit yourself ten times on the head. Not because I think it will restore your common sense. Simply because I want you to know that your religion is good for nothing if it discourages you from caring for the wellbeing of others in a time like this.
Therefore even as I am reaching the end of my blog post I would like to beg all of you to exercise your common sense. Sri Lanka is a literate, intelligent and wise nation. Let’s not behave like brainless fools and drag ourselves as well as others into a premature grave.
It is very frustrating that people are taking this pandemic for granted, even after millions have died. I know how deadly COVID 19 is because I lost an uncle and aunt to the virus. We didn’t even get to see their bodies for the corpses were cremated in a controlled environment. Then two friends of mine that tested positive followed by recovery shared the hellish experience they encountered.
If you are reading this, please know that even the smallest slip can cost you your life. Make every effort to adhere to the safety precautions I have provided here. I also urge you to receive the vaccine because vaccination is not about your welfare only. It’s also about the welfare of the community, the nation, and the entire world.
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