Why we should be exercising caution, not panic as coronavirus looms

The measures implemented in Israel, as of March 16, are closing all malls, restaurants, bars, event halls and education systems. Gatherings of more than 10 people need to be avoided even outdoors

Travelers wearing masks chat in the arrivals terminal after Israel said it will require anyone arriving from overseas to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
Travelers wearing masks chat in the arrivals terminal after Israel said it will require anyone arriving from overseas to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/RONEN ZEVULUN)
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus 2019), more commonly referred to as “coronavirus,” is a virus that has recently acquired the ability to infect humans. It has upper respiratory symptoms, similar to colds and flus, but has a higher death and hospitalization rate. Coronaviridae is a family of viruses with club shaped projections that look like a crown, giving the family its name. These viruses have a lipid layer they need to survive and soap dissolves this layer, which is why hand washing is incredibly effective at preventing transmission. If you can’t wash your hands frequently, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also effective at killing COVID-19 by rupturing the membrane.
Israel has taken a relatively cautious approach to the virus, which has become a global pandemic, shuttering schools and restricting movement before the patient count started rising. Countries that have implemented social distancing, quarantines for those at high exposure risk and other proactive measures are faring much better than countries that waited until many patients were hospitalized to take these measures. While it’s unlikely the spread can be completely halted there are two reasons for these measures. One, spreading the cases out over a longer time, prevents hospitals from being overwhelmed. In Italy hospitals are overwhelmed, which leads to a higher fatality rate. Two, the virus is new, so we don’t have a lot of information about it, nor do we have a cure or vaccine. These measures buy us time to discover more about the virus, and how to treat and prevent it.
COVID-19 isn’t the first new corona virus to infect humans in recent years, SARS and MERS were both coronaviruses, but they spread significantly more slowly, which is why the measures being taken now are more extreme than those implemented in 2003 and 2012. The measures implemented in Israel, as of March 16, are closing all malls, restaurants, bars, event halls and education systems. Gatherings of more than 10 people need to be avoided even if they are outside.
The exceptions are unavoidable situations, like medical care facilities and supermarkets, in those cases everyone should stand at least two meters apart from one another. Masks are effective with perfect use and possibly detrimental with normal use, so there is no need to hoard them, and unless you’re sick, quarantined or are medical personnel there is no need to wear them at all. Postpone any nonessential travel and if possible, stay home in general. The situation is in flux and the measures being taken to curtail the spread of this virus are changing daily, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest regulations. These can be found on the news or on the Health Ministry’s website.
Anyone who comes in contact with a confirmed case, or has returned from abroad, must quarantine, and report that quarantine on the Health Ministry’s website. During the quarantine, you may not leave the house at all, for whatever reason, or have visitors. You must stay in a well ventilated room alone (if you live alone, you don’t have to stay in one room) and can only leave for absolutely necessary activities, such as using the bathrooms, use a mask and gloves while outside that room. When returning home from abroad use personal not public transportation, either drive yourself home or have one person drive you directly home and wear a mask and gloves for the ride.
These measures are taken to avoid reaching a catastrophic state in which the number of people who need intensive care exceed the number of people the health care system can care for. Current estimates are that 20% of patients require serious care while hospitalized, and if the system is too overwhelmed to treat them, the death rate will rise sharply. Supermarkets are open since they provide an essential service, and open areas are not a guaranteed protection from getting sick.
Utilizing “loopholes” may spare you a fine, but the consequences of disregarding these guidelines can be seen in Italy, where the hospitals are completely overloaded, and people are dying from lack of resources. If we all do our part, we can avoid this fate. Israel topped 1,000 cases, as of this writing, (with the number expected to rise) and has taken aggressive measures to protect its citizens, but we are the village, and we have to do our part to protect everyone. Be smart, stay safe!

The writer recently completed her academic studies in pharmacy and is set to start her internship soon.