The COVID-19 outbreak has managed to successfully do what many health experts have struggled to do over their lifetimes; a near complete overhaul of personal hygiene norms as well as the management of social space.
Germaphobia is a fear of germs and any persons that have an extreme fear of germs are called germaphobes. If we were to rewind the sequence of events in the world to a mere 6 months ago and look at what we now perceive to be normal social behaviour, you will note that our actions and practices are now typical of any germaphobe by the standard then.
A new normal is now definitely upon us as none of us would have thought its normal for one to just waltz right into the bank and empty a bank account whilst wearing a mask. Some time ago we witnessed a gentleman being asked to leave the bank for wearing a baseball cap and dark spectacles; the security officers were enraged by him but upon realizing that the spectacles self-tinting and were actually getting clearer as the confrontation pursued, they then settled for him to just remove his cap. A far cry from the many masks that we see on the streets these days. Infact security amongst other civil liberties have now been overruled by an innate need to stay healthy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week warned that the virus may be here to stay as the global death toll nears 300,000.
WHO Emergencies Director in Geneva- Michael Ryan said the virus may never go away adding that people will have to learn to live with it just as they have done with HIV.
We thereby urge the region to abide to the current measures in place to stop the spread of the virus.
Regionally health officials have gone on overdrive advocating for better personal hygiene, constant sanitizing of hands and surfaces as well as keeping one meter distance from each other. All these actions are what we would have previously been perceived to be behaviours that are peculiar to germaphobes.
In Namibia, there was a discussion examining the standards that homemade face masks should have in order to effectively protect people. The government said the homemade mask must be made of 100% cotton, must have three layers and should sufficiently cover the mouth and the nose.
The handling of the mask is very important as it must be worn and removed from the strings and not held from the front.
Dr Apolo Basenero the Technical medical officer Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) of Namibia indicated that contrary to suggestions by some facets of society, the masks are perfectly safe to wear and do not result in the person wearing it inhaling their own carbon dioxide as is the fear by many.
His notion is that when people breathe in through the mask they inhale oxygen from the atmosphere and as they exhale we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. He also noted that this carbon dioxide has very light particles and it does not stay in the mask, it is quickly absorbed into the atmosphere.
So masks are perfectly safe to wear but the MOHSS representatives discouraged the use of masks by children under 2 years of age as well as persons that are incapacitated. Such people might not be unable to take off the mask on their own if they need to.
As we observe society mutating into this germaphobic culture, it is comforting to note that for a select few, this has been their norm.
Just after lockdown restrictions had been imposed in South Africa, ENCA news channel aired a live broadcast in which a reporter asked an elderly lady what her thoughts were on the lockdown restrictions as well as social distancing. In utter surprise as to why the journalist would ask her such a question she replied, “I am surprised why people are now running around telling us to wash our hands, what have people been doing all along? Don’t people know there are germs and viruses everywhere?” the elderly lady responded.
Lets stay safe and protect each other during this pandemic and may we abide to the prescribed guidelines on personal hygiene and social distancing measures.
Masks should be worn to cover the nose and the mouth and not the chin or forehead as has been observed regionally.