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The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated new thinking, including suppression of individual freedom for the good of all. Terms like ‘social distancing’ have quickly entered the mainstream. Fast-tracked research highlights the risk of contracting COVID-19, correlating it to the number of people with whom an individual has close contact, duration of said contact and personal hygiene measures. In a matter of weeks, we have learnt much about this virus but are still on an uncertain path which will inform future interventions. Individual risk of infection will relate to the efficiency of government public health activities to slow the spread, but also public willingness to curtail individual autonomy and freedom. Health and social care services are likely to be overwhelmed. There is a need for public and community coordination to help those in greatest need (particularly in the home), the seriously ill and the dying. We examine the challenges and potential solutions to the crisis, including how caring networks may help and how modern technology may promote safer care.
The immediate challenge for population health is how to reduce the risk of infection. Physical distancing and hygiene measures are the current mainstay, and there are international examples of best practice for both. The outcomes of different methods are unclear, and which is most effective long term has yet to be determined. However, physical distancing is a more factual description than social isolation. Human beings are social animals. More than merely a pleasant aspect of our lives, these social relationships are fundamental to our human health, our minds and well-being. Importantly, good social relationships are more effective in reducing the risk of early death than stopping smoking/alcohol, better diet, losing weight and drug treatment of hypertension.1 …
Contributors Orignial article: JA; editing and additions: MT.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.