Everything you always wanted to know about Covid-19 but were afraid to ask. Q&A with Dr Nusrat Homaira, Senior Lecturer (Respiratory Epidemiology), UNSW Australia
As it will take some more time for the world to see an end to the Covid-19 pandemic and return to normal, people in Bangladesh need to let go of old habits and develop new ones to shield themselves from the virus.
Dr Nusrat Homaira, senior lecturer (respiratory epidemiology) at University of New South Wales in Australia, made the comment while speaking as a guest at Straight Talk, a talk show hosted by Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan.
“We have to live with the virus for sometime. Our best exit strategy should be an effective vaccine,” she said.
During the talk, Dr Homaira shed light on how people can protect themselves from contracting Covid-19, how the virus is transmitted, and what policymakers should prioritize, among others.
Emphasizing on a few simple measures that could help curb the spread of the virus in Bangladesh, she said that the people should pick up the habit of wearing a three-layer cloth mask, washing hands frequently, and maintaining physical distance whenever possible.
“It is difficult to maintain social distancing and imposing a strict lockdown is not a practical solution in a country like Bangladesh where population density is very high,” she said, adding that people can follow these few steps and turn it into a habit.
People who share beds with a Covid-19 patient can sleep with their heads at opposite ends of the bed, she suggested.
While moderating the show, Zafar Sobhan said authorities concerned can invest in distributing masks for people in Bangladesh since wearing masks is an effective way to prevent virus transmission and cost-effective as well.
Replying to a question on her thoughts on reopening schools in Bangladesh, Dr Homaira said it will not be a good idea to reopen schools, given the fact that there is an active community transmission happening in Bangladesh and testing is still significantly low.
However, she said, schools need to find ways to provide education even amid the shut down.
“The schools need to make sure that their students continue their studies instead of taking it as a holiday,” she said.
As for herd immunity, Dr Homaira said achieving herd immunity in a natural way is not the way to end this pandemic.
“Both the health system and the economy will collapse if any country wants to achieve herd immunity in a natural way. Herd immunity should be achieved through vaccines, not by natural infections,” she warned.
Asked whether this Covid-19 virus was airborne, she said the virus can float in the air for a while if an infected person releases droplets, but it really cannot travel.
While answering to a query from the audience, she said an individual can contract the virus even if they do not step outside of their home.
“For example, let’s say a person doesn’t go out but that person gets grocery delivered at the doorstep by the driver or somebody else who has the virus. That individual can be infected as well,” she said.
She also said people need to be extra careful in public places where people tend to talk loudly, as an infected person may transmit Covid-19 virus even without coughing or sneezing.
She said asymptomatic individuals are not super spreaders like people who have at least some symptoms.
“I would say 20% of the infected people who have symptoms are responsible for 80% of the infections,” she said.
Places with poor ventilation have more risks of spreading than open places, she said.
“The virus will behave the way we will behave to fight it. This is not an outbreak, this is a pandemic. And it’s definitely not a common flu,” she said.