On Wednesday, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar was asked whether Indian pacers would limit the use of spit on the ball, he said the team would follow doctors’ instructions. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, many are asking whether to pursue a sport that perhaps requires physical contact, and even recreational swimmers are wondering whether they should stay away from the pool.
In an advisory on March 5, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of Ireland said that if recommended chlorination standards are maintained, then swimming pools are safe. “Please note also that the minimum recommended free chlorine residual depends on the type of pool or chlorination chemical used — for example spa pools (‘jacuzzis’) need a higher residual… Regardless of the type of pool, adherence to the appropriate guidelines will control risk from waterborne COVID-19 virus.”
Illnesses of this kind do not usually spread by water. “The important thing is to deal with COVID at a community rather than an individual level; having said that, I would say that swimming pools are relatively safe,” Dr Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at AIIMS, said. “I cannot say whether chlorination is effective in killing the virus because this is a new virus. However for most respiratory illnesses and influenza, swimming is not a primary source of infection. You have to understand that except in old people with co-morbidities, the individual’s risk of getting an infection is quite low.” Dr Krishnan said 60 cases in a country of 135 crore is a clear indication that the actual risk of infection is low unless one has come in contact with a person who is unwell or has travelled to one of the areas where the infection is rampant.
Skipping sports is not necessary either. That three young students from Kerala, who were evacuated from Wuhan, recovered and went home, showed that being young and fit is an advantage in the battle against coronavirus. “The bottom-line is that anyone with symptoms of the disease should isolate himself or herself. They should be in home isolation. If you do that no matter what you do, the disease won’t spread,” Dr Krishnan said.
Obviously, regular handwashing/sanitisation precautions would also apply to locker rooms and doorknobs for swimmers and sportspersons. The disease may not come from the pool, but lowering your guard once out of it isn’t advisable.
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How safe is public transport?
The confirmation of coronavirus cases from Maharashtra has raised concerns about using public transport, particularly in Mumbai where huge numbers travel by local trains daily. In an interview earlier this week, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had told The Indian Express that public transport is an area of concern. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued an advisory asking that all necessary steps be taken in public transport vehicles to ensure sanitation of seats, handles & bars. “The hygiene and sanitation may be stepped up at all the Bus Terminals and the display of public health messages may be ensured on public transport vehicles, Bus Terminals and the Bus Stops. The Ministry has requested that States/ UTs to take expeditious action and mobilize all necessary support in this regard,” said a government statement.
As India has recorded community transmission, the time will soon come to include railway compartments in this list. Since the feasibility of this step in Mumbai locals is untested, for an individual, hand-washing/sanitisation before touching the face, and coughing/sneezing etiquette remain the best weapons against COVID-19.
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