The rapid spread of the COVID 19 pandemic globally has paralyzed businesses, especially the airline, food and hospitality industries. It has kept people away from their offices and schoolchildren out of their classes. Sports events such as the NBA and the PBA, graduation rites, social gatherings have all been hurriedly cancelled. It has alarmed residents, as they stay home glued to the news, listening to the ever escalating number of positive cases and deaths. Like a never-ending horror flick, the numbers just keep rising daily, as the dark, deadly and invisible virus hovers above, casting gloom on the earth. It can strike and infect anyone; nobody is immune, not even the powerful and the very wealthy. And the scary part? The cure and vaccine are not yet available for use. They still need to go through testing and trial which could take from 10 months to a year or more.
So what can we do in the meantime? Prevention is the key. The virus spreads through droplets. “While it is possible to contract Coronavirus from touching your face with virus-contaminated hands, you can also catch it directly from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. So while washing your hands won’t eliminate your risk of infection, it’s a sensible and powerful safety measure” (Rigby, Sara, “Coronavirus: is hand-washing really the best thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID 19?” www.sciencefocus.com).
Hand-washing has been stressed by most international organizations like the Unicef to prevent infection: wash our hands frequently and properly, then dry them up with a clean towel. Whenever we touch surfaces of tables, tellers’ counters, door knobs, elevator buttons, ATM machines and other commonly used surfaces, we must wash our hands right after.
But how does this work exactly? Pall Thordarson, Chemistry Professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia explains: “One side of the soap molecule buries its way into the virus’ fat and protein shell. Fortunately, the chemical bonds holding the virus together aren’t very strong, so this intrusion is enough to break the virus’ coat. You pull the virus apart, you make it soluble in water and it disintegrates. The trick is this all takes time to happen and that’s why you need to take at least 20 seconds to wash your hands.”
Last Sunday, while I was sitting at our parked car, a woman at the right side of the street sneezed without the courtesy of covering her mouth. Then right after, a man at the left side of the street blew his nose, not to a handkerchief, but to the air which surely dispersed his germs around. Disgusted, I clutched tightly at my facial mask, holding my breath. Fortunately, I was far enough from each of them.
Which brings me to my main point: at this time of the COVID 19 pandemic, shouldn’t we be more careful lest we infect others? Blowing our nose without a tissue paper/hanky in public is a common sight in this country – whether in urban or provincial areas. This very bad custom must be stopped. Why can’t we go to a nearby restroom, blow our nose with a tissue paper, dispose of it properly and wash our hands right after? In addition, sneezing in front of people without covering one’s mouth must also be stopped as a prevention measure. Another disgusting habit is spitting on the streets. These are habits that need to be changed. We need to do our part as educated and responsible people. We are not the only ones walking on the streets – there are others who would like to walk along clean streets. We are not free to spit, sneeze or blow our noses anywhere. I’m sure there are existing municipal or city laws that penalize these actions. Unfortunately, these are not enforced. If people cannot change these bad habits out of self-discipline, personal hygiene and social responsibility, then let the laws be stringently applied.
This pandemic would test our resolve to obey the government’s directives and our discipline as Filipinos. We can do our part in preventing infections and the spread of the virus.
Blowing of noses in public, spitting on the streets and coughing and sneezing without covering our mouths in areas where people are around are bad habits that we can certainly overcome and change for the better. As Dumaguete City and the province of Negros Oriental government rally workers to sanitize public places, we can do our part in observing good personal hygiene.
Discipline is an essential part of nation-building. We need it to move forward and be productive members of society.