Updated: Nov 14, 2020
With an effective and long-lasting vaccine still not guaranteed, as least for the foreseeable future, it seems as though COVID-19 is here to stay.
It’s no surprise, really. We have no real vaccines against other coronaviruses, like the common cold. Instead, we just accept that we’ll get a sniffle and cough most years, sometimes several times. It’s a nuisance – they always seem to hit when we start a holiday or Christmas break - but they’re usually gone within a few days.
COVID-19 is different, of course. Not only can it floor you for a week or more, like seasonal flu, but it can be serious, even fatal. And it’s a bit unpredictable. It’s rare for young and fit people to have serious complications – but not totally unheard of. Plus, we are only starting to understand that it can have longer-lasting health effects, dubbed ‘long COVID’ which can hit you even after a mild attack. More time and yet more medical studies will give us more info on that condition.
So, sadly, it looks as though we have to live with this. And do our best to get back to some sort of normality whilst protecting ourselves and each other. But how?
Reduce transmission to others
Keeping your distance and wearing a mask inside and in crowded spaces (or wherever regulations apply) will help reduce the risk of you transmitting infection to others – bearing in mind that you may have no symptoms and still have COVID. And avoid transmission by touch too. Visitors to your home should only be allowed if regulations permit, but air purifiers that have been proven effective against COVID-19 will keep everyone that bit safer. And regular cleaning of all surfaces with proven antiviral cleaners is important too – especially in shared bathrooms or kitchen areas.
Regular COVID antigen tests may become the norm and are increasingly available in chemists, workplaces and more. They can help identify if you have asymptomatic COVID so that you can isolate rather than share it with others! Of course, a negative test doesn’t give you total clearance – you should still adopt general safety measures. And, currently, they should only be administered by health workers – trying to do them at home risks an inaccurate result and is against regulations at present. But simple, no-touch infra-red temperature checks can be done at home, as routinely as brushing your teeth!
And, it goes without saying that you should follow government guidelines which currently include getting an approved test and self-isolating, as well as informing any contacts to do the same.
It may also become more common to check for COVID antibodies. They show whether you have had COVID in the past and have a degree of immunity. But our antibodies (from infection or vaccination) seem to decrease over a few months, and repeat tests may show whether your antibodies have dropped or even disappeared. They shouldn’t change your behaviour, of course, as we are still understanding how important these measured antibody levels are in protecting us – but with time, they may help us understand more about the course of this disease.
Reduce the risk to yourself
Standard cloth masks may not provide much protection to you – though they stop you touching your face
as often and reduce risk of transmission by spray etc. as well as reducing the risk to those around you.
More effective masks are worth considering in a higher risk environment like airports or other busy areas. Keep your distance from others and hand-wash or sanitise regularly, but especially before eating or touching your face.
If you are in a high risk job, you obviously need appropriate, quality checked PPE.
Keep healthy too – we know that being overweight, having high blood pressure, diabetes, and similar are
associated with a higher risk of complications so now’s the time to address them. The good news is that cutting back on processed, sugary foods and losing weight can reduce or even reverse diabetes and high blood pressure. Home blood pressure monitors are worth considering – 1 in 4 of us have high blood pressure without knowing, putting ourselves at risk of other health problems too.
Avoiding smoking, getting good sleep, nutritious food and plenty of exercise and fresh air are common-sense measures but really do boost your immune system, helping you to avoid infections of any sort, but also reduce the risk of complications if you do fall prey to COVID.
So, whilst the miracle vaccine we were hoping for isn’t quite here yet, there’s still lots we can do to help ourselves. And the sooner we start to get used to this new normal, the sooner we can get some sort of life back!