A guide to staying safe in quarantine amid the COVID-19 outbreak

Credit cover image: istock.com/fpm

By Christopher Burdett

The number of those infected in Thailand with the coronavirus has risen to 1,524, despite the number of new cases dropping slightly yesterday to 136. The outbreak is now spreading well beyond Bangkok as the state of emergency declared on March 26 has sent private sector employment into freefall.

The tourism, food and beverage, entertainment, and service industries–those with an especially high risk of occupational exposure to the virus–all over Thailand are seeing workers leave in droves, voluntarily or otherwise. Many of those migrant workers are heading home to Isaan.

In the wake of this, The Isaan Record has compiled a list of useful facts and tips from various sources, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help our readers understand the practical aspects of COVID-19 and minimize the risk of infection.

  1. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) cannot penetrate healthy skin.
  2. The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule covered by a protective layer of lipids (fats). The cells of the nose, mouth, and eyes are vulnerable to infection by the virus. It does this by fusing to the protective membrane of the cell with its own lipid membrane, and releases a strand of genetic instructions (RNA) into the cell. The hijacked cell then starts producing proteins to assemble new copies of the virus while keeping the immune system away.
  3. Since it is a virus, it can’t be killed. But it can be left to disintegrate on its own. The virus’ lifespan varies depending on the material it is on (see below). Sunlight, heat, and humidity accelerate the virus’ decay.
  4. Although it is very efficient at replicating itself, it is extremely fragile. Only a thin layer of fat protects it from contact with things that will cause its decay. Soap or detergent is the best countermeasure because either actively breaks down fat. The longer you rub your hands with soap, and the more foam is created, the better the chance of completely breaking down the virus’ lipid membrane. Without its outer layer of fat, the proteins of the virus will naturally break down and disperse harmlessly.
  5. Heat also melts the fatty membrane. Combined with the fat-dissolving properties of soap, using hot water (over 25 degrees Celsius) produces more foam and greatly minimizes the chances of survival for coronavirus on your hands, clothes, and belongings.
  6. Alcohol or any alcohol solution containing more than 60 percent alcohol is capable of dissolving the protective lipid membrane of the coronavirus.
  7. Diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite) are also effective against the lipid membrane of the coronavirus.
  8. Hydrogen peroxide dissolves the proteins of the virus. With its lipid membrane dissolved by soap, alcohol, chlorine, or hot water, the proteins of the virus will be particularly vulnerable to hydrogen peroxide.
  9. Using bactericides do not help protect against the coronavirus. Since the virus is not a living organism, bactericides will do nothing against the virus. Even worse, the bacteria which survives the bactericides may adapt and mutate into a resistant bacteria, which could harm you.
  10. Do not shake clothing or fabrics indoors or outdoors. The virus is inert and disintegrates within three hours on fabric. On wood it can last four hours, because wood absorbs moisture yet is not smooth enough for the virus to detach itself easily. On cardboard it can last 24 hours. On most metals it lasts 42 hours, with the exception of copper (4 hours) because copper is naturally virucidal. If you release the virus into the air by shaking the fabric it was on, it can remain in the air for three hours and enter the eyes, mouth, or nose.
  11. Coronavirus is most stable in cold, dry, and dark environments. Spaces with artificially cooled air-flows, such as air conditioned vehicles and rooms, therefore provide the virus with a good chance of survival. Warm and bright environments will increase the chances of the virus disintegrating. Having the air suitably humidified will also help decrease its suspension in the air.
  12. Ultraviolet (UV) light breaks down the proteins of the virus. Artificial UV light sources are perfect for disinfecting reused masks and other similar objects. But beware of using it on skin as UV light can break down collagen, leading to skin damage, wrinkles, and possibly even skin cancer.
  13. Vinegar and alcoholic beverages containing less than 60 percent alcohol are not effective against the virus’ lipid membrane.
  14. Some many mouthwashes contain greater than 60 percent alcohol, they can be used to safeguard against coronavirus.
  15. The more cramped and congested a space, the greater the chances of survival for coronavirus. Bright, well-lit (preferably with natural light which contains UV rays), and well ventilated rooms are the least friendly to coronavirus.
  16. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm-water (if available), and/or clean them with sanitizing alcohol gels before and after you touch frequently used objects such as door knobs, remote controls, mobile telephones, and the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, and eyes.
  17. Keep your hands moisturized, because coronavirus molecules can hide in wrinkles, cracks, or cuts in your skin. The denser the moisturizer, the better. 
  18. Keep your nails short–not only to avoid providing a place for coronavirus to stay on your hands, but also to minimize the chances of accidentally scratching or gouging skin.
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