The situation of the Covid-19 pandemic in Portugal remains worrying, although the number of new infections has declined due to the “significant efforts” made by the Portuguese to comply with the restrictions, highlighted by the Minister of Health. if still difficult weeks. What can we as individuals do to stop the spread of the new coronavirus? The PUBLIC spoke to four experts who explained what mistakes we are still making after eleven months of the pandemic and what role we can play in the fight against this virus.
Not respecting the concept of the social bubble
It remains “very important” to respect the concept of the social bubble, which means “maintaining risky behaviors – without a mask and less than two meters away – only with the people in our household,” explains Tiago Correia, Professor of International Health and researcher at the Institute for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (IHMT). “Adults, but also young people, in the end let themselves be a little bit by people about their work, about their daily life, but also about friends and colleagues, even when it comes to smoking a cigarette or drinking coffee and that is it’s a problem, ”he notes.
Elisabete Ramos, researcher at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Porto and President of the Portuguese Association for Epidemiology, emphasizes that “we are actually not aware that we are connections between people who would otherwise have no contact” “giant networks”. The fact is, however, “each of us can be a vital element in a chain of transmission and save lives,” says Bernardo Gomes, a public health doctor.
Tiago Correia emphasizes, however, that adhering to the bubble concept “does not mean giving up social contacts, but rather setting physical limits”.
Trust that others are not infected
“They can be very close friends, but if we don’t live with them every day, we shouldn’t be at risk,” emphasizes Tiago Correia. “There is a chance that people may transmit the virus and are not aware of it.” “because there are asymptomatic cases. In addition,” there are people who deliberately devalue symptoms or leave them out “.
Risk perception is also at stake. According to Elisabete Ramos, the fact that people sometimes neglect caring for family and friends “has to do with the logic of not seeing some people as potential risks because they were always the ones who looked after us, protected us and those we seek, when we need something. “But although” in practice this is good “-” it would be bad if we didn’t have that human side “-” it’s bad for them [transmissão da] Infection”.
In general, we also tend to “assume that either we or others are not infected, and this is particularly dangerous when we are talking about a disease that is transmitted before symptoms appear,” explains the specialist.
Abuse of the mask
Another mistake we continue to make is related to incorrect use or non-use of the mask. “Regardless of the typology, the fit of the mask must be good,” warns Bernardo Gomes. In addition, there are people who spontaneously take off their mask when they say: “At this very moment the mask has to be put on.”
Tiago Correia again emphasizes that “wearing a mask means covering your mouth and nose and following the rules of the masks”, including “not using disposable masks for an indefinite period”.
Do not wash your hands regularly
For Elisabete Ramos, “the most important thing of all” is hand washing, something that “we have neglected”. “It is so common for us that it is strange to imagine that a pandemic of this size depends on such a simple gesture,” he notes.
Although a limited number of symptoms were initially attributed to Covid-19, Bernardo Gomes explains that there are people with Covid-19 who only have “general malaise, body pain or headache or gastrointestinal changes”. Therefore, the importance of diagnosis and attention to symptoms is emphasized, especially in areas where there is community transmission. On top of that, people might think it’s just “the flu or a normal respiratory infection”. “But in the epidemiological context we are experiencing, it is to suspect covid-19 until they prove otherwise.”
Focus on exceptions, not what’s safe
In November the Prime Minister himself went so far as to “pull the ears” of those who went on an “exception search” – although the stricter restriction introduced in mid-January made this behavior somewhat more impossible.
For Tiago Correia, “the fact that people are more permissive shows two things: fatigue because people try to escape imposition and keep their routines, but it also shows that the message is discredited.” The psychiatrist Pedro Morgado admits that it would be desirable for people to focus on what is safe, but recalls that “there are people who just don’t take the risk”. “Whether they understand that they are not affected by not falling into risk groups, or because they are devaluing the ease of transmission and the severity of the pandemic,” he says.
Assuming everything done outdoors is safe
“What is safe is social distance and mask use, but this applies to both the inside and the outside,” warns Tiago Correia, but emphasizes that “the risk of virus levels is greater inside” ventilation is important . And ventilation doesn’t just mean opening a window: “You have to ensure air circulation.” If we can choose, we have to choose an outdoor area, but there is still no zero risk.
If you think vaccination will allow you to relax
With the start of vaccination against Covid-19 and the “announcement of a light of hope”, “people thought they could make it easier,” explains Bernardo Gomes, but “the percentage of people vaccinated is still very low” and it will be also take some time to complete this process.
Tiago Correia warns that “vaccines are taking longer than expected to be distributed and normal mutations of the virus are occurring”. “It is possible that even after the population has been vaccinated, there are variants and mutations that can affect people’s immunity,” he adds.
In addition, Tiago Correia notes that “it is not known how long the natural immune response or the vaccine lasts” and that “vaccines are effective in preventing the development of the disease, but there is no certainty that people who have been vaccinated will not transmit the virus to others “.
Suppose we aren’t going to catch the virus twice
There are also those who believe that if they have been infected previously, they will not get infected again with the virus. Although rare, some cases of reinfection are known. “The fact of an earlier infection gives us a certain objective security. The problem, however, is that the duration of this immunity depends on the individual, ”says Bernardo Gomes. It must also be taken into account that while we may not get sick again, we may have a role in transmitting the virus to others.
To think that most of the people have a mild infection
The perception that people are no longer afraid of the virus is related to what experts call “pandemic fatigue”. “The main consequence of pandemic fatigue is to create more errors: errors in perceiving and identifying risks; Failure to adopt responsible behavior; and errors in responding to the messages we receive, ”explains psychiatrist Pedro Morgado.
Elisabete Ramos, on the other hand, explains that it is not only about “habitual beings”, which makes it difficult to adapt to a new reality, but also about “an appreciation of information that says that the infection is relatively mild for most people”, which carries some risks. However, the data shows that the number of people hospitalized and dying from the disease remains too high that it is not yet time to relax.
The expert also emphasizes that we can play a role in alerting others (gently) to comply with the recommendations. Mostly because “a lot of behaviors are things that we do automatically and that we don’t recognize,” he notes, pointing out that everyone at some point makes a mistake. Even so, every little care can make a difference – not least because the viral load can apparently also have an impact on the severity of the disease.
“This is a team game and can only be won if the team works hard for success,” said Elisabete Ramos. “It is true that everyone is tired and there is a lot that we miss, but if we don’t make this effort now, it will take us longer to get what we miss.”