With the summer holidays on the horizon, most South Africans are wondering whether to go on holiday or stay home, considering that we’re not free of coronavirus pandemic yet. Most people, understandably, are craving a getaway, having been in lockdown for a large part of 2020. You might be surprised to learn that almost all of the same safety principles are applicable, whether you choose to go away or stay at home. So, here are some practical guidelines:
Observe social distancing. Avoid crowds. If you find yourself in a crowd, try and move out of it in under 15 minutes. If you’re with 50 people rather than, say 5, you’re about 100 times more at risk of becoming infected than with the smaller crowd.
A cloth mask must be worn in public, where you are likely to be in close contact with people. Ensure that you keep your mask on in shopping malls, and in any indoor setting where there are people present with whom you do not live. The same goes when using public transport.
Aim for as many outdoor activities as possible. The South African summer has truly awesome weather, and wind disperses the virus very quickly. If an activity can only be done indoors, request for doors and windows to remain open so that fresh air can circulate in the venue. Don’t attend any venue that has poor ventilation (think weddings, and other celebrations, as well as funerals, that have proved to be virus ‘super spreaders’).
Keeping your hands clean at all times by using soap and water or a good alcohol-based sanitizer, still applies, despite the relaxed holiday vibe. Outside your home you are likely to touch surfaces that countless others have already touched, such escalator handrails in malls, or the elevator buttons in hotels.
According to the Scientist Collective, large family gatherings at home, where people become less vigilant, are probably more dangerous than going away on holiday. So, holding a braai or enjoying a meal outdoors is a lovely (and safer for all) alternative to dining indoors. Also, if you’re going to be staying with family, protect the vulnerable: the elderly, people with diabetes or hypertension, and those with other chronic diseases. Children love to hug their grandparents and other family members, but it’s best to teach them how to air hug and blow kisses. Don’t shake hands, bump elbows. Consider, before visiting such high-risk people during the holidays, going into a period of voluntary self-isolation. It’s important to remember that people can be asymptomatic, while nevertheless shedding the virus. Regard everyone you or vulnerable family members come into contact with, as potentially carrying the virus., especially young people.
The best mode of transport during this pandemic, is private. If you are privileged to enjoy private transport, travel in a ‘pod’, where everyone in the ‘pod’ maintains close contact only with those in that pod. Nobody in the pod should breach the confines of this protective bubble, or everyone in the pod will be endangered.
Public transport is, unfortunately, the most common mode of transport transportation for most, and is usually filled to capacity, leaving people in close proximity to others for lengthy periods. Wearing a mask during the entire duration of the journey is a must. If you can, wipe down the surfaces near your seat before you sit down. Keep the lid down when flushing public toilets. On the plus side, travelling during summer allows you to keep the the windows open.
Whether travelling privately or using public transportation, limit any possible exposure to the virus at stops by keeping them as short as possible. Wherever you can, wipe down toilet seats and taps before you use them. As eating involves removing your mask, eat outside the vehicle, not in it, at a distance from fellow way-farers. At airports, be careful where any queuing is required. On landing, disembark as quickly as you can, so you’re not in a closed space longer than is necessary.
Once you’ve arrived at your accommodation, open the windows to your room immediately so as to allow proper ventilation. While you don’t have to scrub your room, it’s a good idea to wipe down frequently touched objects such as door handles, light switches, TV remotes, and so on.
When eating out, try to choose an outdoor option that practices socially distancing their seating. Avoid buffets due to the high chances of queuing and crowding.
You are safe swimming both in the sea, or in a pool, but should implement the basics of masking and distancing while on the beach itself. There is no harm in hiking outdoors in a small group.
Always recite the Duas for protection, whether vacationing or staycationing. Make Dua daily and in every situation for all to be safe from becoming infected. Along with Dua and Trust in Allah, having ‘tied your camel’ in implementing these guidelines, you can relax and enjoy your summer break! Happy holidays!!!
Umm Muhammed Umar