COVID-19 continues to wreak destruction across the globe. Italy, China, Iran and Spain are devastated. The death toll in these countries is increasing. The unabated pandemic has left the healthcare system in these countries reeling.
The pandemic can take on similar proportions anywhere in the globe. And the only way to stop that from happening is by implementing a few measures. That is why we get to hear frequent mention of the terms quarantine, isolation, social distancing, and lockdown.
So what exactly do these words mean and are these precautions effective? Read on to find out.
Anatomy of a pandemic
Let us understand the basics first. How does COVID-19 spread? This virus is just another strain of coronavirus (a family to which SARS and MERS also belong). It spreads from one person to another in two ways-
- When an infected person coughs or sneezes within 1 metre of others
- When healthy individuals touch something touched by an infected person
Basically, COVID-19 spreads from human to human, through contact (direct and indirect). So the only way to prevent transmission is to break the contact. By reducing exposure of a person to the virus, we can ensure that he/she does not contract it.
This brings us to the three measures that healthcare professionals and governments across the world are urging us to adopt- quarantine, isolation and social distancing. Let us understand these concepts better.
Quarantine first began to be practised way back in the middle ages during the dreaded bubonic plague. Since then it has repeatedly been implemented to stall any contagious outbreak.
Quarantine means segregating from the population those people who may have been exposed to the virus or are displaying the symptoms of the disease. On the off chance that they have indeed contracted COVID-19, healthy people will not come in contact with them and the virus will naturally not enter their bodies. This is how transmission can be prevented. In the meanwhile, the people in quarantine undergo tests, receive treatment if needed, get better and are discharged by doctors.
But the word ‘quarantine’ strikes fear in the hearts of many. But really, there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the alternative is scarier. When you are quarantine, you will be well taken care of and the public too will be safe.
Isolation is the same as quarantine with the difference that only people who have tested positive (in this instance for COVID-19) are removed from the public and transported to a safe location where they are treated. Sometimes people in quarantine whose results came back positive are shifted to an isolation ward.
Isolation and quarantine can also be personal. If you feel that you may have contracted the illness or been exposed to it, you can insulate yourself from the world till you get better.
Social distancing is something we all have to rigorously impose upon ourselves. It requires us to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. This way we reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus and can flatten the upward curve of the disease.
Quarantine and isolation: The legality
India’s federal structure and constitution have made health a state subject. So the Centre has very little power to influence how states respond to a health calamity. The Epidemic Act of 1897 allows it to issue guidelines and act as a coordinator. Which is why the central government urged states to invoke section 2 of this Act, which bestows every state with the right to-
- Prevent social gatherings
- Close educational institutes
- Regulate the working hours of government offices
- Ask the private sector to implement work from home
- Segregation of people suspected of having contracted the illness
- Inspection of all people travelling by trains (not aeroplanes as they did not exist when this legislation was drafted)
- Inspect any vessel or ship at any port
All states have come together and are co-operating with the centre to contain the disease. So even though the Act needs to be amended to incorporate changes reflecting the new challenges of an ever-evolving world, quarantine and isolation are enforceable by the state governments.
All it will take to subdue coronavirus is good sense and responsibility. Let us pledge to help humanity by not being averse to social distancing, quarantine and isolation.
CTA: Coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate, and is something you should be cautious against! So, don’t leave space for any confusion! If you have medical queries on Coronavirus, call us on 080-47193456