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How to protect yourself and others as the second wave of COVID-19 rages on

With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, it looks as though it is nowhere nearing an end. In India, the alarming surge in cases and deaths comes only months after the numbers began falling in September 2020. People had discontinued wearing masks and were flouting social distancing norms as if the pandemic never happened. But when cases began soaring again, the public and the authorities were left scrambling for answers.

Although the vaccination drive is being ramped up to serve domestic demand, we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves and others. It starts with understanding the dangers of the second wave of COVID-19 and sharing accurate information with others.

Here are different measures you can take to protect yourself and others as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

Physical Measures

  • Wear two masks: A recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that wearing two masks is more effective than one in slowing the spread of coronavirus. The researchers found that wearing one mask—surgical or cloth—blocked around 40 percent of the coronavirus particles. Whereas, when a cloth mask was worn on top of a surgical mask, about 80 percent of the particles were blocked.
  • Maintain social distancing: Always keep a distance of six feet between yourself and people who are not from your household, in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Social distancing is important especially for older people, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Recent studies suggest that those who are infected but do not have symptoms can also spread the virus.
  • Avoid crowds: Avoid crowded places and social gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least six feet away from others. If you are out, pay attention to tape markings or signs on walls demonstrating the need to maintain social distance. Since the virus spreads more rapidly in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, taking precautions is even more important.
  • Keep your hands clean: To prevent the spread of germs, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol. It is imperative to wash hands before and after touching your eyes, nose or mouth, touching your mask, entering and leaving a public place and touching items such as door handles, tables, shopping carts, etc.
  • Protect your home: Disinfect your home daily with a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent. Cleaning high-touch surfaces such as countertops, switches, doorknobs and tables kills germs and decreases the risk of contamination. Ask visitors to wear masks at all times. Have everyone in the household wash hands and sanitise, especially when returning from outdoors. Also, improve ventilation to keep virus particles from accumulating inside.
  • Monitor your health daily: The symptoms of the second strain of COVID-19 differ from the first strain. In addition to the old symptoms of fever, persistent cough and loss of smell and taste, watch out for body aches, diarrhoea, discolouration of fingers and toes, sore throat, conjunctivitis, headaches and skin rashes. Check your temperature and blood oxygen levels regularly. Also, keep in touch with your doctor and take your medicines regularly if you have a health condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine: It is important to take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is made available for your age bracket. Approved COVID-19 vaccines provide a high degree of protection against the impact and intensity of the virus. The vaccines are safe for most people who are 18 and above, even for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Mental Health Measures

  • Limit news and social media usage: Most of us are spending every waking moment glancing at our screens for news and the latest COVID-19 updates. However, taking breaks from the news and social media can keep you from getting stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Communicate with near and dear ones: In the midst of a major crisis such as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people seek connection and comfort from others, says clinical psychologist Kelcey Stratton. She adds, “It is important to find creative ways to maintain connections. We might also find some comfort by remembering that we are all in this together to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities.” Create a habit of connecting regularly with friends, family and peers to seek and extend support. Keep in touch with people who love you and can offer support if your mental health declines. If you are being treated for a mental health condition, make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed and seek further treatment when required.
  • Take deep breaths and meditate: With everything happening around us, anxiety and uncertainty can make it hard to stay calm and stress-free. And when we panic, our bodies need more oxygen. That’s why deep breathing and meditation can make a difference. Breathing exercises are easy to learn and don’t require any special tools or equipment.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly: Proper nutrition, hydration and exercise are vital in building a stronger immune system and lowering the risk of COVID-19 infection. A sedentary lifestyle and low physical activity can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing due to staying at home for prolonged periods. WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a mix of both. Short sessions of physical activity such as dancing, playing with your pet, online exercise classes or performing domestic chores are ways to stay active at home.
  • Get plenty of sleep: Getting enough sleep can benefit your immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people battling the virus. A good sleep pattern regulates your mood, improves brain function, and keeps you energised and productive through the day. It is important to create a fixed sleep schedule, limit screen time at night, and control stress to get a good night’s sleep during these testing times.
  • Follow a consistent daily routine: Keep up with your daily routine or create new ones. Get up and go to bed at a fixed time every day. Eat healthy meals at regular times, exercise daily, allocate time for work and rest, and do things you enjoy the most.
  • Make time to unwind: Try to indulge in activities you enjoy to bring some normalcy back to your life. Colour or doodle, do yoga, take a nap, chat with a friend, listen to music or watch a movie—do whatever makes you happy.

Social Measures

  • Stay informed and updated: Know how the COVID-19 situation is building up in your neighbourhood and follow the guidelines prescribed in your area. Create a list of local organisations that you can contact in case you, or someone else, needs access to healthcare services or support during the second wave of COVID-19.
  • Share accurate information: Make sure the information you get and share are from reliable sources. Also, correct misinformation wherever you notice it.
  • Check on your friends and family: If someone you know is struggling with their health and wellbeing during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Leave them a message or call them to tell them you are there. Don’t ask repeated questions about their mental health as it can aggravate stress.
  • Offer help and support: If you can, offer support to people in your community such as the elderly and disabled by helping them with groceries or procuring medicines. Letting people know you are only a text or call away will give them the assurance that they are not alone.

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