To say the 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak has disrupted daily life in Singapore is an understatement. With cases mounting by the day, people are staying away from malls, group activities and anywhere they don't die-die have to be at. Kids go to school and come straight home, people go to the office because they have to, and gatherings, parties and any semblance of a good time are cancelled or postponed. We might be in for a long fight, and staying home indefinitely sounds awful. There is only so much Netflix you and the kids can watch, right? 8days.sg checks in with Dr Dana Elliott Srither, Doctor & Co-founder of Rxemedium.io (Telemedicine), about which activities you can still go out and do, if you're brave enough.
You'd think swimming might be a bad idea, with germs, viruses and other nasties floating in the water, but Dr Elliott tells us it's actually one of the safer activities to partake in. "Coronaviruses spread by droplets, and in a swimming pool, they're completely washed off by the sheer amount of water. We don't know yet if chlorine [can kill off the virus] until they do tests, but yes, the water will negate the effects of the virus, so there’s no harm."
What may be a little less safe, according to the doc, is if you linger around the pool at the chairs and tables and pick up the virus from dry surfaces. So we guess if you go the pool, jump straight in, swim and leave immediately to go home to shower, it should be a pretty safe way to indulge in some outdoor activity and get your Vitamin D.
The malls are eerily empty, apparently. But Dr Elliott says that if you're in a spacious mall with good ventilation, there should be nothing to worry about. "The WHO says there is no confirmation that the virus can spread through ventilation systems," he tells us. "The risk is definitely higher if you're in a more confined space, such as in a vehicle or an airplane cabin, for an extended period of time."
How about if you go into a small shop in a large shopping mall and you're unlucky enough to be in a space where an infected person has been? "There are a few different factors which can affect whether you catch the virus or not," says the doc. "The number of infected persons at any one time, what they are touching, whether they are sneezing and coughing — all these factors increase the risks. And yes, if malls can do temperature screening, it would be better."
So basically, go to a mall and walk around, but minimise your risk by not going into shops that are crowded with people, and try not to touch stuff unnecessarily. And if you have to handle the goods 'cos, you know, that's how shopping works, do not touch your face and wash your hands with soap or sanitise after.
Going to a restaurant
"Restaurants tend to be more conducive [for spreading the virus] as they tend to be less spacious. If the operators take precautions like wiping down the area after each diner and changing the table cloth after every customer, I don’t see that there should be any problems."
Going to the gym
"Oh, the gym is a different story. There's a lot of perspiration and shared equipment in a gym, so it's tricky. If they wipe down the equipment after each person’s use, then it shouldn’t be a problem."
What if you do your due diligence and wipe everything that you're going to use before you start and sanitise your hands before exercising? "Then it's fairly safe," says the doc. "But if you're sharing the space with an infected person and he or she is coughing, then your risk goes up." So we say, if you want to go to the gym, wipe everything and make sure there's no one near you while you pump and grind.
Outdoor sports such as tennis
"Anything that’s outdoors, no problem," says Dr Elliott. "The ventilation is better and the virus will not linger in the air." We're guessing sports with less person to person contact such as tennis, running and cycling would be better than sports which require you to be near others, such as basketball and volleyball.
Yoga or dance class
"If there's physical contact with a dance partner, then the proximity poses a risk. But if you're dancing on your own, there's not much of a risk. With yoga, it's also safe as there's no contact with others, but if you're doing hot yoga, there is moisture in the air, so that one might be a risk, if the temperature doesn’t kill the virus. We still don't know that much about this virus, but viruses generally do not like high temperatures."
Going to the library
"There might be risks with tables and chairs in the libraries, but with the books? Unlikely," says the doc. "If the books have been on the shelves for a while, the virus will not survive long enough for the next borrower to pick it up, so the risks are lower. Your risk of picking up the virus are highest when you touch something within half an hour of an infected person touching it, or maybe within an hour. The threat will diminish over time, as the virus needs a live host."
As for whether concerned readers need to wipe down the books before borrowing or bringing them home, Dr Elliott says, "Yes, you can wipe the covers with a damp cloth or add disinfectant with alcohol to a cloth. I guess it will minimise the risk and the amount of viruses. But don’t damage books lah."
Going to a movie
"There is a possibility of catching the virus if you’re sitting next to an infected person, because of the long duration in close proximity. If the person is coughing and sneezing, the risk is higher." Um, so if you do go to a theatre, make sure you aren't sitting with any strangers, and wipe the handrests and the seat before you get comfy?
There are just so many what-ifs that if you want to be completely 100 per cent safe, then just stay home lah. But if the cabin fever will kill you before anything else, then by all means, go out and do stuff, but take the necessary precautions and stay safe.