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Coronavirus: 9 habits you have to change

Friday March 20 2020

Revellers brave the rain as they catch live performances at a concert on December 22, 2019.

Revellers brave the rain as they catch live performances at a concert on December 22, 2019. It is time to reduce your regular social outings. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SARAH NANJALA
By SARAH NANJALA
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The coronavirus pandemic has put the world on high alert, and is forcing drastic lifestyle changes in the process.

The changes are part of measures advised by governments and the World Health Organisation to minimise spread of the virus that has so far claimed more than 9,800 lives globally with more than 232,650 cases in 158 countries and territories.

With seven confirmed cases in Kenya, this is as good a time as any to modify some of your behaviours in order to protect yourself.

Here are some of the habits that you will need to change.

1. How you greet people

With the number of fresh infections rising by the day, people are being encouraged to refrain from handshakes as they are agents of transferring the disease.

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It is important that you start getting used to not offering your hand in greeting to family, friends and acquaintances.

Alternatives for handshakes that are coming up include elbow bumps, the Namaste greeting -- where you put your hands together as if in prayer to acknowledge the other person -- and simply waving at people.

In some countries across the world, governments have discouraged commonplace greetings such as a kiss on the cheek (France) and pressing of the nose (New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates).

2. Social interactions

Kenyans love socialising, whether at restaurants, night clubs, churches, mosques, weddings, funerals and even on the street.

However, it is time to reduce your regular social outings to curb spread of Covid-19.

The government has already suspended classes in schools, colleges and universities, so you can't socialise there.

However, the government cannot control whether you go to the nightclub or even gather with friends and family at each other's homes. On this, individual responsibilty, in light of Kenya reporting more cases, is expected on your part.

3. Paying with cash

Despite being the home of mobile money transfer technology, Kenya is largely a cash economy.

This, however, may have to change as physical money can be vehicles for transferring the virus between people.

The government has already encouraged people to use cashless modes of payment such as M-Pesa and cards as alternatives.

Mobile money service providers, including Safaricom, have also waived transaction fees for cash transfers of Sh1,000 and less for the next three months.

Before the move, it cost between Sh11 and Sh15 to transfer cash below Sh1,000 on the M-Pesa platform, and up to Sh28 to withdraw from an M-Pesa agent.

To achieve this, sectors such as public transportation will have to provide ways through which their customers can pay without cash.

The same applies for retailers such as the neighbourhood shops and supermarkets.

4. Going to the office

The government has encouraged companies to allow their staff to work from home during this time.

For those whose physical presence is not required at the office, working from home is the best thing to do as it will reduce the number of people you interact with.

While at home, you can still accomplish tasks through virtual meetings on platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp.

You can also stay in touch with colleagues, supervisors and bosses through email, video call and text.

Similarly, you can catch up with your friends while at home on social platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

5. So-so hygiene practices

With the outbreak of the virus, it is now more important than ever that you step up your hygiene standards.

Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use of alcohol-based sanitisers when water isn't available and sneezing or coughing into your elbow or handkerchief will go a long way in protecting you.

The virus easily spreads through coughing and sneezing, meaning that people need to be cautious and responsible with their habits.

Ensure that you also clean surfaces, including your mobile phone, with disinfectant and try as much as possible to avoid touching your face as the virus may be transferred from your hands to your mouth, nose and eyes.

You should also avoid sharing personal items such as towels, bottles, and cigarettes.

6. Restrict your movements

As the number of cases continues to rise globally, more and more countries are closing their borders to reduce the risk of further spreading the virus.

The Kenyan government has also restricted travel from and into the country unless under very urgent and justifiable conditions.

Airlines, including Kenya Airways, have also suspended or reduced the frequency of flights on many global routes.

On a personal level, it would be responsible for you to reduce the number of places you visit as well, not only for your sake but for others -- especially if you travelled internationally in the past month.

7. Reduce your spending

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the global economy with many countries reporting stock falls, while industries such as aviation and tourism take the hardest hit from reduced travelling.

Businesswise, with employees being asked to stay at home and industry slowing down, it could very well mean that the economy is heading towards a slowdown.

With that in mind, it would be wise for you to check your spending and limit frivolous purchases.

Focus on buying only necessary goods such as food and hygiene products.

There's also no need for panic buying. Retailers such as Tuskys have said that they have enough stocks.

8. Shopping in person

This is the best time to shift to online shopping to limit your interactions.

Retailers such as Tuskys have announced partnerships with delivery agents that can bring your groceries to your doorstep at a fee.

It is important at this time to take advantage of e-commerce to keep yourself and others safe.

9. Waiting too long to see a doctor

It has often been a bad habit for a section of Kenyans to ignore symptoms of illness until it worsens.

This is the time to be more responsible with your health and watch out for any signs and symptoms that may be associated with coronavirus infection.

If you exhibit symptoms such as fever, dry cough, exhaustion, headache and shortness of breath, kindly contact the nearest hospital by phone or call the Ministry of Health emergency hotlines -- 0729471414 and 0732353535.