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Safety protocols better than any vaccine – health specialist

Published:Thursday | March 11, 2021 | 12:13 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr Yohann White
Dr Yohann White

As Jamaica rolls out its national COVID-19 vaccination programme, one senior health professional is calling for a reinforcement of the health protocols in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and is advising Jamaicans that complacency could kill them.

Jamaica has seen record numbers of infection over the past few days, and on Wednesday began vaccinating health care and other frontline workers.

Travel health specialist, Dr Yohann White, on Tuesday evening used his keynote address to the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Kingston to emphasise the need for Jamaicans to continue to wear a face mask, covering their nose and mouth, sanitise their hands and maintain physical distancing.

“There is still no perfect COVID medication that you can say, you have this illness, you have this medication. You are bound to improve because you got it. We have no such magic treatment at the moment, but we have some options that, if given in a timely manner, will improve the course of your disease or shorten the course of your disease, and in some instances, prevent persons from dying, but there is really no magic treatment.

“We can prevent or interrupt spreading of that virus from one person to the other, or to another surface by certain practices. If you are feeling like you want to cough or sneeze, sneeze into a napkin, discard it immediately and wash your hands right after with soap and water. And there is a proper way to wash your hands,” he advised.

Handwashing important

Proper washing of the hands, which are effectively travel vehicles for the virus, is very important, according to White, who went on to explain.

“What I have found from my observations is that our hands play a very big role in transmitting this virus from one person to the other. This is because we spread or breathe or we exhale droplets, which are fine particles of water essentially, and on the surface of those bubbles or water bubbles sit those virus particles or coronavirus.

“So if somebody is infected with the virus, when they breathe, talk, sing at church on the choir or at party or whatever, they exhale and release droplets that can remain suspended in the environment around them. Those droplets can linger in the air and eventually land on surfaces – on the keyboard, the mouse, on your wallet, your telephone, everything – and can remain there for several days.”

Dr White made it clear that the prevention protocols were grounded in sound science.

“Handwashing or cough-and-sneeze etiquette are important ways of preventing the spread. We have estimated that when you cough or sneeze, the droplets may travel about three to five feet. So it’s actually a very practical recommendation, it’s not arbitrary. So the handwashing, the cough-and-sneeze etiquette, the physical distancing are important strategies for preventing the spread. It’s better than any medication or vaccine that you can think of.”