A SITE4Society public health message for the Corona Virus Crisis

A SITE4Society public health message for the Corona Virus Crisis 🦠: What are your social responsibilities? What is their rationale? 📉

One would imagine that this is obvious to everyone with all the news coming in from every quarter. But, even in Maastricht where SITE4Society resides, a number of students are concerned at the social gatherings they witness in the streets. This has prompted us to explain and reiterate the rationale for self-quarantine during the next few weeks.

Under the present global corona siege, we all have two primary social responsibilities: (i) to observe hygiene behaviour; and (ii) to try to quarantine oneself and one’s entourage to the maximum extent possible.

First, this means observing all safeguards not to get infected. So practice hygiene behaviour – especially washing hands and coughing into a handkerchief or into your elbow.

Second, we have to take all precautions not to infect others. The mantra advocated for this is social distancing. According to many Western sources this is 6 feet and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) this is 3 feet . Since in many communities such social distancing is impossible to observe, quarantine within homes has been called for. And to nudge this behavioural change – schools, educational institutions, places of worships, event halls, malls, cinema houses are being shut in many countries and country borders are being closed.

However, the political heads of some countries have not been responsible enough to insist on quarantine. Further, even in regions where quarantine has been called for, there are still many people who are not complying. This is terrible. Let us explain why.

Suppose we make the simplifying assumption that the proportion of vulnerable people (i.e. with an existing persistent health condition) in all populations is the same. This is not true – the proportions are much higher in developing countries. But let us assume this for simplicity.

Then, the parameters that determine the degree of risk are basically two.

First, the number of hospital beds with ventilators available as a ratio of the population is crucial. This represents the healthcare capabilities.
– Greater the healthcare capabilities, lower is the risk. However, in developing countries healthcare capabilities are generally lower.
– Greater the population in relation to the health care capabilities, the greater is the risk of not being able to access medical attention. In developing countries the risk is generally higher.

For instance, the WHO recommends 5 fully equipped hospital beds per 1000 people in a community. On the assumption that a person infected by covid-19 is likely to infect at least two more people, a 2% mortality rate has been forecast (note that different epidemiological models for transmission exist). That means to reanimate 2% of serious cases, 20 beds per 1000 people is required. This is why even in a high income country like Italy, which has about 3.4 equipped beds per 1000 people over all, there is a shortage of equipment and hospital beds to treat corona virus cases. Contrast this with 0.7 in India, which makes the covid-19 even more of a crisis there. How are countries, especially developing countries like India to cope? There is only one way and we turn to this now.

The second risk factor is the “socializing” within the community, or how many people, a person in the community is likely to closely interact with and transmit the germ to – determines the spread and the eventual disease burden of corona virus. This is country specific. THIS IS THE ONLY PARAMETER THAT CITIZENS IN EVERY COUNTRY CAN INFLUENCE IN THE SHORT RUN – whatever has been recommended by the local authorities. The lower the socializing or the higher the effective quarantine, the lower is the risk.

This argument is further illustrated in Figures 1 and 2.

Under the above context, we congratulate the governments whose public policy has pushed for strict quarantine to minimize the transmission of corona virus.

Now, we call upon all our friends and readers to:
1. practice hygiene behaviour;
2. And quarantine themselves in their homes to the maximum extent possible
– as the socially responsible response to this crisis.

With best wishes to all and especially sending our good vibes and prayers to medical personnel all over the world dealing with the corona virus crisis,

The SITE4Society team


Photo credits: www.publicdomainpictures.net