On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a “public health emergency of international concern. For the most part Africa seems to be keeping its head above water. So, should you the saffa surfer be worried? Should you cancel that long-awaited trip abroad? Should you be stashing canned foods and looking for groundwater in the back yard? What shouldn’t you be doing? And lastly; what about the Olympics? Aaaaaah… So many questions!
Cover Image – Alan van Gysen featuring a healthy Frank Solomon.
Let’s deal with probably the lowest on the list of concerns – The Tokyo Olympic Games. Well, they’re around the corner and scheduled to open in just under 5 months on July 24. Word on the street is that Japan will be dropping close to $25 billion to put the whole shebang together with roughly 11’000 athletes set to fly in and throw down. But you don’t care about that, you just wanna know about surfings debut?
“I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’” said the IOC’s Dick Pound.
At the other end, a spokesman for the Japanese government said. “With regard to Dick’s comment, the IOC has responded that this is not their official position and that the IOC is proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled.”
All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual and for those competing, seek comfort in the fact that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.
Obviously, Olympic coronavirus disruption would be ‘heartbreaking’ as stated by Japans favourite surfer Kanoa Igarashi. Kanoa tells CNN that he and his fellow Olympians are “ready to compete” despite being concerned about the coronavirus threat.
What might happen in the coming months:
More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the coming weeks the world over. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur. It’s likely that at some point widespread transmission of COVID-19 in most countries will occur.
Widespread transmission of COVID-19 would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience an influx in sick notes. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths (if shit hits the fan). Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected (again if shit hits the fan).
At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.
So for those of you who need to be traveling in the immediate future; you do need to be informed as well as make carefully thought-out decisions with regard to the information available. Right now, the fear is almost worse than the virus…. maybe.
Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Global Map
Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation reportexternal icon. For a more interactive and up to the minute ‘Live Track’ on the spread click here.
Alright then, so should you, the potentially traveling surfer, be worried then? Probably a little. Should you be panicking? Not yet. Should you be taking precautions? Yes. So in light of that last ‘yes’ here is some very useful information from pathologist and molecular virologist Dr. James Robb, a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, who was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses way back in the 1970s. It’s his concern that the virus could be widespread (even more so) by mid to late March and April.
Precautions you should be taking whilst traveling:
1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc..
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances AND in your car for use after touching potentially contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What you should stock in preparation for a pandemic spread:
1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.
Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90 x a day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Stock up on hand sanitizers. They must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx.
Final words from Dr. Robb:
“I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained. I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. However, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.”
Should you be worried about air travel?
Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, travelers should try to avoid contact with sick passengers, duh, and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol.
Depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice).
Countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (widespread, ongoing transmission):
- China (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
- Iran (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
- Italy (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
- South Korea (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, by WHO:
- Dominican Republic
- United States
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Sri Lanka
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea