Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the National Capital Region (NCR) under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). This was in response to the medical frontliners’ request for time to regroup and to change the strategy amidst the continued rise of covid-19 cases.
By this time, terms like GCQ and MECQ are a familiar part of our vernacular. We’ve been living like this for close to five months, after all.
While we’re all staying inside as much as possible, complete abstinence from the outside world isn’t sustainable, especially for a prolonged period. And yes, that applies even to those of us working from home too.
But, here’s the thing, how do we weigh the risks vs. the rewards of certain key activities? Some, clearly, are less risky than others, so how do you know if it’s relatively safe? Also, what precautions can you take to lessen the risk of these activities further?
Fortunately, several medical experts have weighed in on the matter and we’ve compiled their input just for you:
Yes, you read that right. Shopping for groceries can be perfectly safe SO LONG AS YOU WEAR A MASK and distance yourself from other people.
By the way, you don’t need to wear gloves while shopping either. Simply refrain from picking up items you don’t really plan to buy. You can also spritz your hands with ethyl alcohol every now and then to be on the safe side.
However, you should be cautious about grabbing door and shopping cart handles. You can give these a quick wipe down with alcohol before gripping to kill any lingering germs.
Want to support your favorite eatery at this time but aren’t keen on takeout? Outdoor dining is a safer alternative, as compared to its indoor counterpart anyways.
Outside dining generally means better ventilation. So long as the tables are kept six feet apart, it’s a relatively low-risk activity. Do be careful with menus and condiment bottles, though. If the restaurant has them, disposable menus and condiment packets are a safer choice.
If you’re suffering from cabin fever but aren’t keen on roaming the nearest mall, why not try a park instead? A brief hike or walk in an outdoor park, like outdoor dining, offers better ventilation. The size of the venue also allows you to observe social distancing better, thus eliminating the worry of brushing past anyone.
However, you should note that this becomes riskier if you chat up someone you encounter along the way for more than 15 minutes. Want some company on your hike? Ask someone who’s been quarantining with you to come along instead.
Going on Dates
Sorry, mate. There’s no such thing as Love in the Time of Covid-19, and you ain’t Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Unless you plan to date your partner or spouse (who should be isolating with you, btw), you ought to put romance on the back-burner for now. Meeting up with a stranger from Tinder or even your childhood crush who lives in a densely populated neighborhood can expose you to the virus.
Remember, even asymptomatic carriers can have high viral loads. Therefore, they can be extremely contagious without showing any symptoms. So, don’t be so eager to meet up with someone outside your quarantine circle even if they “don’t seem to be covid-19 positive.”
Getting a Haircut
One of my colleagues filmed himself cutting his own hair (Hi, Leandro!), and with disastrous results. Yep, I totally understand why a lot of us are itching for a professional to do it, especially after months and months of grappling with Paleolithic Era locks.
On the other hand, going to the salon is a fairly risky activity, given that the enclosed space and air conditioning can allow the virus to circulate. There’s also the close contact between you and the stylist throughout the entire process of shampooing, cutting, and blow-drying.
If you really must have a haircut, make sure you go to a salon that only lets in a few people at a time. Your stylist should also wear a mask the entire time, and should wash their hands frequently. The same goes for you too.
As I mentioned earlier, dining indoors is riskier than dining al fresco because of the air flow, along with people being in an enclosed space for extended periods of time. While you can lessen the risks by wearing a mask, you would still need to remove that when your food arrives, right?
So, as much as possible, avoid indoor dining and get your food to go instead.
Attending Church Services
I realize that many of the faithful miss attending religious services. That’s perfectly fine. A lot of people find great comfort in gathering as a community, and it’s normal to miss that.
However, don’t believe your parish priest when he says that it’s safe to commune for Mass. Sorry, Father, but religious gatherings remain a high-risk activity in the absence of a virus or cure. When you’ve got rituals like singing and reciting responses out loud, receiving Communion orally, and greeting each other with the Sign of Peace, all amidst a densely-packed crowd and a lot of older people in attendance, you’ve got a super-spreader account waiting to happen.
All it takes is one covid-positive person to attend Mass, and everyone else is at risk of contracting the virus. Best to stay home and livestream services from your parish of choice on Youtube or Facebook.
If you would like to support your local parish at this time, you may want to make a donation as well. Many churches are struggling to pay their staff and their utility bills, so any amount would be helpful.
Large Family Gatherings
We all miss our extended family by now, but that doesn’t change the fact that getting together is still extremely risky. Family members aren’t likely to wear masks when they gather, making it insanely easy for asymptomatic carriers to spread the virus.
Of course, no one’s stopping you from having family or friends over. Yet, bear in mind that you’ll be interacting not just with them, but with virtually every other person they’ve been with. So, you may want to think twice if your relatives haven’t been staying home and/or see different people daily, especially if there are elderly or immunocompromised people in your party.
Working Out at the Gym
Have you seen that photo of an American gym that wrapped plastic around its workout stations? Nice try, but it’s not going to keep people safe.
Gyms are hotspots for spreading viruses. This is primarily because the equipment is communal, and because all those deadlifts and pull-ups make people exhale droplets into the air.
So, yeah, stick to working out at home. It’s not like anyone will get to see your #beachbod this year anyway.
However, don’t engage in even low-risk activities without following the proper precautions, alright? Wear a face mask properly (i.e., snugly over your nose), observe social distancing protocols, and wash your hands frequently. If you feel any symptoms, best to consult with a medical practitioner.
Even though they might have lifted the stricter quarantine protocols, the virus is still very much out there and there is still no vaccine.
Stay safe, everyone.