Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Guide for the Public - February 2021
Why this resource page? We know that there are official sites such as the World Health Organisation and your local health authority sites that the public should refer to.
This e-guide can help you judge the headlines and separate sound fact from fad.
We have dived deep into the internet and have compiled and short-listed some of the useful and practical information and guides out there and organise them in one place.This is a living e-guide and a work-in-progress resource page. It can be updated in step with the rapid pace and growing volume of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work.
- Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection when they cough, sneeze or speak. Maintain an even greater distance between yourself and others when indoors. The further away, the better.
- Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal are essential to make masks as effective as possible.
- Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.
- Make sure it covers both your nose, mouth and chin.
- When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it’s a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.
- Don’t use masks with valves.
- For specifics on what type of mask to wear and when, watch WHO videos.
- Find out more about the science of how COVID-19 infects people and our bodies react by watching or reading this interview.
- Outbreaks have been reported in restaurants, choir practices, fitness classes, nightclubs, offices and places of worship where people have gathered, often in crowded indoor settings where they talk loudly, shout, breathe heavily or sing.
- The risks of getting COVID-19 are higher in crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected people spend long periods of time together in close proximity. These environments are where the virus appears to spread by respiratory droplets or aerosols more efficiently, so taking precautions is even more important.
- For more information on how to hold events like family gatherings, children’s football games and family occasions, read WHO's Q&A on small public gatherings.
- Open a window. Increase the amount of ‘natural ventilation’ when indoors.
- WHO has published Q&As on ventilation and air conditioning for both the general public and people who manage public spaces and buildings.
- Wear a mask (see above for more details).
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. This eliminates germs including viruses that may be on your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately into a closed bin and wash your hands. By following good ‘respiratory hygiene’, you protect the people around you from viruses, which cause colds, flu and COVID-19.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently especially those which are regularly touched, such as door handles, faucets and phone screens.
- Know the full range of symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include loss of taste or smell, aches and pains, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, red eyes, diarrhoea, or a skin rash.
- Stay home and self-isolate even if you have minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Call your health care provider or hotline for advice. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house or have someone near you, wear a medical mask to avoid infecting others.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Call by telephone first, if you can and follow the directions of your local health authority.
- Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities. Local and national authorities and public health units are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Eating a healthy diet is very important during the COVID-19 pandemic. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.
While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems. Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
For babies, a healthy diet means exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, with the introduction of nutritious and safe foods to complement breastmilk from age 6 months to 2 years and beyond. For young children, a healthy and balanced diet is essential for growth and development. For older people, it can help to ensure healthier and more active lives.
Tips for maintaining a healthy diet:
1. Eat a variety of food, including fruits and vegetables
• Every day, eat a mix of whole-grains like wheat, maize and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables , with some foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milk).
• Choose wholegrain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.
• For snacks, choose raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and unsalted nuts.
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2. Cut back on salt
• Limit salt intake to 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day.
• When cooking and preparing foods, use salt sparingly and reduce use of salty sauces and condiments (like soy sauce, stock or fish sauce).
• If using canned or dried food, choose varieties of vegetables, nuts and fruit, without added salt and sugars.
• Remove the salt shaker from the table, and experiment with fresh or dried herbs and spices for added flavor instead.
• Check the labels on food and choose products with lower sodium content.
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3. Eat moderate amounts of fats and oils
• Replace butter, ghee and lard with healthier fats like olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil when cooking.
• Choose white meats like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat; trim meat of visible fat and limit the consumption of processed meats.
• Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products.
• Avoid processed, baked and fried foods that contain industrially produced trans-fat.
• Try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking.
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4. Limit sugar intake
• Limit intake of sweets and sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices and juice drinks, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy and sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee and flavoured milk drinks.
• Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. When other dessert options are chosen, ensure that they are low in sugar and consume small portions.
• Avoid giving sugary foods to children. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods given to children under 2 years of age, and should be limited beyond that age.
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5. Stay hydrated: Drink enough water
Good hydration is crucial for optimal health. Whenever available and safe for consumption, tap water is the healthiest and cheapest drink. Drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages is a simple way to limit your intake of sugar and excess calories.
6. Avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol use
7. Breastfeed babies and young children
In situations where individuals’ vitamin D status is already marginal or where foods rich in vitamin D (including vitamin D-fortified foods) are not consumed, and exposure to sunlight is limited, a vitamin D supplement in doses of the recommended nutrient intakes (200-600 IU, depending on age) or according to national guidelines may be considered (WHO, 2020).
- COVID-19 Dashboard at Johns Hopkins University (real-time)