September 4, 2020

COVID-19 – The catalyst changing our health behaviour

We are in a period of limbo, having apparently weathered phase one of the Corona Virus wave. Now as autumn arrives we are bracing to see if we can avoid another peak over winter. Many of our past activities have resumed; we are back in bars, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers’ salons, and yet we know that life is nowhere near reverting to pre covid normal.

We hear talk of herd immunity and vaccinations, which may extricate us from this virus over time. However, the harsh reality is, we still don’t know when an effective vaccine will be developed and the length of immunity from infection that might give us. Add to this, the potential for the virus to mutate and produce reinfections as well as new infections and we can surmise that we are clearly not out of the woods.

With so many unknowns and the fact the virus continues to spread, what can we, as individuals, do to control it?

No breaking news headlines here… we are back to our old friends “Social Distancing” and “Good Hygiene.”  Social distancing can help help prevent air transmission of Covid–19 and washing our hands (and trying not to touch our faces) could prevent surface contamination too.

The price to be paid for this extra vigilance is that our social lives will have to alter and we will need to adapt our behaviours. Physical interaction between friends and family will be restricted and cautious with less hugging and close contact, more awareness of proximity.

How we work will also alter with many people deciding that working from home and online meetings are less risky than returning to an office setting. The era of the “hot desk” may end and any shared kit will be considered a contamination risk.

Office etiquette will literally become less “hands on”. No more handshakes – get used to elbow bumps or nods when you meet a client or colleague that you haven’t seen for months. If you do leave your home, travelling to work will be very different too; fewer people seem willing to use public transport because of concerns over crowding in confined spaces and the possibility of contamination. It’s tricky to socially distance in a packed bus or train and not everyone has the option of hopping on a bike or running to the work place.

As intrinsically social beings all this adaption can be hard to negotiate and it’s all too easy to see the negatives. However, there are also health benefits to glean from this time of heightened vigilance. By improving our personal hygiene routines and being more aware of the need for social distancing, we could not only curb the effects of coronavirus but also see a reduction in the yearly stats for flu, colds, food poisoning and stomach bugs. Better self-regulation also plays its part in preventing new pandemics from visiting us in the future.

Perhaps we should have been more health and hygiene savvy before covid struck but it usually takes a dramatic intervention, like a global public health threat to concentrate minds. There’s no time like the present to start using what we have learned thus far to improve our chances of avoiding infection.

So localised lockdowns, track and trace, better personal hygiene and social distancing are a part of our every day lives by necessity. None of this is easy. Our social patterns and habits have been disrupted by this pandemic but we know that by altering our behaviour as individuals, we can play our part in lessening the impact of the virus. The latest travel restrictions and lockdowns serve as a timely warning. We cannot afford to relax our guard. The threat persists…. but we should not forget that we are more than capable of adapting to this new reality.