Humans are social animals who live a collective existence by socializing with family, friends, neighbors, and many other fellow beings. Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic the resultant fatigue is now fast becoming an undeniable reality.
Human health is not just about being disease-free. To live a healthy life, physical interactions with people, going outdoors, physical intimacy with loved ones, and many other pleasures of life are important. Refraining from physical social interactions for a long time has resulted in a rise in mental health issues around the world. Those already afflicted with conditions like depression and anxiety, or who are unemployed suffered tremendously during the pandemic.
Although things are better in India, the precautions that kept us safe all these months cannot be taken lightly. A negative test is not a 100% guarantee of safety. Besides, if you have tested negative today, you might test positive a few days later. And testing positive for antibodies doesn’t ensure that you’re completely immune to the infection in a long-term sense. Besides, no demographic has been identified by the medical fraternity to be considered truly safe from COVID-19. One ray of hope is the vaccine though; and as more and more people get the shots, reaching herd immunity will soon be a reality.
Meanwhile, medical practitioners and psychologists are vocal about how this isolated existence cannot be a sustainable option for most people. To that end, medical experts have devised a hierarchy of social interactions from the least risky to the riskiest. Every social interaction carries some form of risk, but experts broadly agree on a certain acceptable amount of risk.
While deciding on socializing during the pandemic, you will have to assess the immediate risk factors involved. This includes assessing the type of interactions you are planning and weighing their risks against the possible benefits to your health and wellbeing.
Here are some of the important things to keep in mind while contemplating socializing-
Data update is important
You should have a sense of the latest situation regarding community spread in your area. This includes the rise and fall of new cases, hospital admissions, and fatality rates in your locality. If numbers remain somewhat high, you should be concerned about your social contacts. Just because the theatres are opening doesn’t mean you have to book a ticket.
Be informed about people you interact with
If the people you are planning on socializing with are old or have underlying health conditions, you should be extra cautious since they’re at a higher risk of severe infection. Also, if you are planning a social activity, you should factor in the duration and setting of the activity. The longer the interactions are, the more likely is the risk of transmission of the virus.
Weigh in the high and low-risk factors
It is important to make choices that are sustainable for you and reduce the potential harm. Close distance contacts, long-lasting interactions, and enclosed areas pose the highest risk of transmission of the virus. While, maintaining a minimum of six feet distance, short interactions, and open outdoor environments lower the risks. Remember chatting for long with someone indoors has a higher risk than strolling briefly with that person in the open. Also, one-on-one meetings are safer than group gatherings.
Correctly worn, approved masks are effective in further reducing the risk and are mandatory when interacting in close proximity or indoors. Other protective methods include frequent hand-washing.
Trust is important
When deciding on meeting people, the element of trust is critical. You should prioritize your interactions according to the seriousness with which your contacts follow safety measures like social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing. It’s important to remember that meeting someone now means potentially exposing yourself to all of their earlier brushes with coronavirus.
If you are planning to move in with someone at this point, do it safely, which means, both of you should get tested before moving in. Sexual contacts also include some amount of risk. Hence doctors are of the opinion that virtual sexual activity or sexual contact with a live-in partner is safest.
Use Tech as much as possible
Technology is that magic solution that will help you avoid contact to a great extent. Continue using online shopping, virtual meetings, and tele-consulting with doctors as much as possible. You can think of availing of tele-consulting and telemedicine services in cases that do not need emergency medical intervention or an in-person check-up.
COVID-19 is not spreading identically in all parts of the country and if you are keen on socializing, the responsibility is on you to follow the specific public-health guidelines and have a complete understanding of the situation in your area. The important thing right now is responsible and mindful actions as citizens. Social distancing is not just for your own safety but about the common and collective societal good, as it makes sure that as few people as possible get infected.
Staying safe during this pandemic is a sensitive as well as complex matter as it is a multi-layered issue that includes what you are doing, what you think others are doing, and what collectively everybody is doing for safety. All of us are now required to prioritize the larger good of this planet. We can do it best by adopting the altruistic move of limiting our social contact as much as possible.
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