Masks, hugs and hand washing: 18 new rules to protect yourself and others

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Masks, hugs and hand washing: 18 new rules to protect yourself and others


FThe day of peace has arrived, at least for those of us who live in England, and we are back where no one wants to be. On the one hand: yes, freedom. On the other: a worried feeling that easing restrictions has very little to do with data, and much more with a government fed up with imposing Covid-related restrictions.

So we come to the unwanted territory (by me) of personal responsibility. Which freedoms do you need to grasp with both hands, which ones must you give up for now, which ones must you exercise caution? How should informed, polite, civic and reasonable people behave? The expertise provided here is that of Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield; Professor Christina Pagel, Director of the Clinical Operations Research Unit at University College London, which applies advanced analytical methods to health problems; and Debora Robertson, co-author of Manners: A Modern Field Guide.


When should you wear a mask?

“I would say the same as today,” Pagel said without hesitation. Fell agrees: “In almost any enclosed interior space. “


Is it useful to wear a mask if no one else is?

Okay, that’s complicated. You won’t get much protection with a nice sheet mask if everyone around you is breathing freely on you. Primarily, you are simply offering them a totally unrequited line of defense against the possibility of your own sneezing. However, “the FFP2 and FFP3 masks are actually quite protective,” Pagel explains. (These are usually the lightly padded white disposable masks, not the flimsy bruises). “But no, for the wearing of masks to work at the population level, approximately 70% of people need to wear them. “

When you continue to wear a mask, you are not only protecting yourself against infection, you are contributing to “the positive social norm,” as Fell describes it, which allows other people who still want to mask themselves and reassures those who do. wouldn’t feel good going out if everyone was unmasked.

“Some people want to get rid of masks,” Fell says. “We are opening, and this is a political decision taken by the Prime Minister – whether we like it or not does not matter. We want to keep our society and our businesses open. We cannot individually prevent transmission at the population level, but we can slow the growth of the virus. “


How crowded should a train be before putting on a mask?

Put one on anyway, unless you’re alone in a car. Supermarkets and public transport are two places most people cannot avoid going, even if they fear infection. These are also the two places where you know the least about the situation of others. “I can’t imagine anything sadder than being on a subway or a bus, and all the old people wear masks when no one else is,” Pagel says.


Should I wear a mask outside?

“There was never really a reason to wear a mask outside. We never had an exterior mask warrant, ”says Pagel. It’s not completely hard and fast, she continues. “If you’re in Leicester Square, with thousands of people all singing ‘the football comes home’ there would be more reason to wear a mask, but it’s unlikely you would, I think. “

Illustration: Ryan Gillett / The Guardian

Do you have to explain yourself if you wear a mask in an environment where the majority of people are not?

“No,” says Robertson, the etiquette expert. “The decision you make is nobody’s business. And I think it’s pretty rude to ask people why they wear a mask. It’s the equivalent of saying, “You’re a little fat”, or “Your eyebrows are funny”. It’s that level of personal remark.


Should you give someone a mask if they claim they are not wearing one because they “forgot” it?

It really depends if you believe them. As someone who constantly forgets their mask, I am inclined to do so. In this case, Robertson says, “Give, but a light touch is important. And if they said ‘no’, don’t make it into a scene. But I would stand back, probably.


If you work in a team where some people want to wear masks and others don’t, what should company policy be?

“A lot of workplaces in Sheffield have erred on the side of caution,” Fell says. “Not at your desk, but when you move around the building, wear a mask. What we cannot do is apply it. Pagel emphasizes the need for empathy here. “You don’t know everyone’s family situation, and worried people need everyone to wear a mask. It is important not to stigmatize them.


Do you have to wear a mask in a taxi even if the windows are open?

You can get surprisingly good airflow in a car with two windows open. But you should think about the driver, who doesn’t really have a choice in how many people he sits close to each day.


What should you do if you want the windows to open and no one else around you?

“I’m an older woman,” says Robertson, “so I keep opening the windows constantly at the best of times. If anyone wanted them to be closed and really get into a fight over it, I would say it’s not really about the window. There is no easy answer to this kind of confrontation. Except for that general rule from Robertson: “Have kindness first of all. For perfectly understandable reasons, we are all in a state of hyper-awareness of how other people are going to piss us off. Does she have a mask, is it on her nose, is it too close to me? People do their best, and whatever they do, they don’t at you. “


Is it helpful to do a lateral flow test before meeting people?

Recently, thanks to a combination of their high false negative rate and naughty teens faking positive results with lemon juice, lateral flow testing has started to seem a little pointless. “A negative test is not a license that you are without Covid,” says Fell. “But that’s better than not doing any testing,” says Pagel, “which has a 100% false negative rate. “


Is it okay to ask people to do a lateral flow test before meeting them?

It’s almost exclusively a matter of good manners, so back to Robertson: “I think that’s absolutely correct. For now, we need to be pretty explicit about how we navigate this new landscape. The British do not know how to use our words very well; we expect people to know what we want.


Is it okay to say no to someone asking you to do a lateral flow test before you meet them if you think they are being too careful?

Again, that’s fine, but you have no right to be offended if they don’t want to meet you or insist on meeting you outside.

Illustration: Ryan Gillett / The Guardian

Can we start kissing and kissing again?

“I’m German,” Pagel preface, “I’ve never been a big kiss. I am a handshake woman. But when I want to hug someone, people who don’t have children are much safer in my opinion. Robertson is doubly vaxxed and will kiss anyone she loves with similar vaccination status, but with younger people she’s more likely to ‘give them a crazy kiss’. For Fell, “It’s going to take a while before I start doing this again,” but he doesn’t give a read on how cuddly he was at first. I often ask people directly if they kiss again, to avoid that awkward dance where one person walks in and the other dodges, then reconsiders, and you end up doing something that no one intended to do. , like kissing them in the ear. But then if they say they are kissing again, it can end in a gigantic hug that doesn’t know where to stop.


What is the risk of hugging a child – for you and for them?

Fell describes the situation in Sheffield, but it’s a similar picture across the country: “Cases are increasing exponentially, mainly in the 12 to 45 age group, and mainly in the 16 to 30 age group. . 40 years old is a reasonably well vaccinated group of people, so there are fewer places the virus can go. If you’re going to catch it, it’s more likely to be from a youngster, and of this group, children have the most general exposure (at least until this week, when schools go their separate ways) . The problem is, kids are usually the most fun hugging people. If you are doubly vaccinated they pose a greater risk to you than you are to them, so you can decide whether to give it a shot or not.


Should we always use hand sanitizer?

At the start of the pandemic, public health boards overestimated the extent of non-airborne transmission and arguably placed too much emphasis on handwashing. However, “having clean hands is a good thing in and of itself,” Pagel says, and you could spare yourself something else, like a stomach bug. Covid isn’t the only infection in the world that will become more and more obvious as things open up.


How do you navigate group situations where people have different levels of rigor, regarding rules and protocols, the effectiveness of vaccines or wearing a mask?

If it’s up to you, try to separate these people. If that’s not up to you, try to steer clear of it.


If you know someone who’s been cracked by the NHS app but ignores them, what should you do?

You need to be sensitive to the challenges of others: it can be very easy for you to isolate yourself, and someone else may have a precarious job that won’t pay for them if they don’t show up. The most I would ever go in interfering with someone else’s self-isolation would be to offer practical help. Put yourself in their shoes. Don’t ask who the app is pinging for, it is pinging for you.


Should we go abroad this summer?

From a health point of view, if you are doubly trapped, you test before you go and test when you return, the risk for you is low, especially because our Covid rates are the highest around anyway. From a civic point of view, this is not ideal: “At the population level, the risk of variation is high at the moment, specifies Pagel, and we have a duty not to go everywhere by spreading Delta. . Not so much Europe as we have already given it to them. Seriously, was that us? “They would have had India seeding events. But their Delta surges started a few weeks after the Champions League final. Fell said, “Everyone should come to Sheffield for their vacation. Sheffield is beautiful.

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