By Annisa Essack & M.I. Bukharia
Abu Salamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “There is no infection (without the decree of Allah). Do not mix the sick with the healthy.” (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 4124)
Al-Nawawi said, “As for the statement ‘do not mix the sick with the healthy,’ it guides to avoidance of what results in harm, as per the consistent action of Allah and his decree.” (Source: Sharḥ al-Nawawī ‘alá Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2220)
As the number of infections rises globally, China has seen a marked decline, demonstrating that the course of the outbreak was altered, thus China’s experience in containing the spread of the new coronavirus could serve as a lesson for other countries now facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gauden Galea, a representative of WHO in China highlighted that citizens of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, paid a “high price” with the lockdown, thus “buying time” for the rest of China and the World.
By containing the spread effectively allowed for the rest of China to be able to contain the outbreak effectively. The small number of cases seen outside of Hubei is testimony to the success and effectiveness. He warned, “It’s very important to realise that such shortcomings are not unique to China, and that very few countries are manifesting any greater speed in action”.
Thus, the number one lesson we learn from this is CONTAINMENT.
With China having a strong national public health system, one can understand that the ability to contain the spread was quick and decisive, underlining the need for preparation and the value of providing all citizens with access to healthcare. However, on an individual level, his advice is social distancing and hygiene.
Infectious disease researchers studying the novel coronavirus were able to identify how quickly the virus can spread, a factor that may help public health officials in their efforts at containment. They found that time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week and that more than 10 percent of patients are infected by somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms.
In the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, a team of scientists from the United States, France, China, and Hong Kong was able to calculate what's called the serial interval of the virus. To measure serial interval, scientists look at the time it takes for symptoms to appear in two people with the virus: the person who infects another, and the infected second person.
Researchers found that the average serial interval for the novel coronavirus in China was approximately four days. This also is among the first studies to estimate the rate of asymptomatic transmission.
By now, you've heard the advice that to slow the spread of coronavirus globally, we need to practice social distancing. Why is this measure, seen by many as “social isolation” and unnecessary?
The strategy of “social distancing” saved thousands of lives both during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and, more recently, in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic.
Let’s look at the math or exponential growth trajectory of the virus to understand the need for social distancing.
Research reveals that the rate of the spread of the infection is proportional to the number of people infected, meaning that each infected person is expected to infect a certain number of people — around 2.5 right now — who each, in turn, go on to infect 2.5 more, and on and on unless drastic measures are taken to reduce social contact and isolate the infected from others. Add to the misdiagnosis, which is unavoidable, especially in under-resourced health care systems.
We can expect a doubling of cases every six days, according to several epidemiological studies. Confirmed cases may appear to rise (faster or slower) in the short term as diagnostic capabilities are ramped up (or not), but this is how fast we can expect actual new cases to rise in the absence of substantial mitigation measures.
Now, let us look at our already overburdened and poor health care system. As hospitals become saturated with cases, it will become increasingly difficult to detect, track, and contain new transmission chains. In the absence of extreme interventions like those implemented in China, this trend likely won’t slow significantly until hitting at least 1% of the population, or about 3.3 million citizens.
What does a caseload of this size mean for the health care system? Two answers — hospital beds and masks — can gauge how Covid-19 will affect resources.
In a country like South Africa with a compromised health care system and high numbers of HIV, Aids and TB patients the situation can become as severe as it is in Italy or Iran.
Researchers found that initially combining home isolation of cases and social distancing of people over 70 would lead to a peak over a three to four-month period and would reduce healthcare demand and deaths, but it would still result in an overwhelming number of deaths and a health system unable to cope.
The second plan that researchers considered involved a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members, and possible school and university closures.
Unwarranted panic will only hinder, but neither does ill-informed complacency. The fraction of cases that are severe really sets Covid-19 apart from more familiar respiratory illnesses, compounded by the fact that it’s whipping through a population without natural immune protection at lightning speed.
Can we afford to ignore the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)?