Covid-19 cases
During the pandemic, everyone is jointly responsible. Everyone can make the difference between stopping or spreading the virus. (Photo: istock)

They are in black and white, and some are very low quality. Photographs of the 1918 flu pandemic show daily life during that health emergency: people walking through the streets, cutting their hair in the open air, taking care of the distance between them. They are old but similar to life today: people wearing masks.

“One of the simplest ways to combat a pandemic has been known since ancient times, and it is to cover your mouth,” says Edna Suárez-Díaz, a specialist in Life Science History and Historical Epistemology. “In a century of medical development, there have been impressive advances, but it all starts with a mask and keeping your distance.”

It has been shown that the use of a mask, keeping a safe distance, frequent hand washing with soap and water, ventilating spaces, and avoiding crowds does reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19. Although many of these measures have become habits, specialists agree that, in Mexico at least, we are far from applying them rigorously and consciously enough because they say that people don’t realize that their participation can make the difference between stopping or spreading the virus.

“We’re all part of the solution to this huge crisis. Each person must understand that every action that he or she takes is part of the fight against the pandemic,” says Alejandro Torres, doctor and member of the Covid-19 patient care team at TecSalud, Tecnológico de Monterrey’s health system.

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More than just a medical event

Pandemics are more than just medical emergencies; they are social events in which everyone’s actions count. We are all responsible.

The southern hemisphere has been an example of the importance of adopting preventive measures. There, influenza infections disappeared mainly due to the use of face masks. “You realize the responsibility we all have for wearing them,” emphasizes Dr. Suárez-Díaz. “The main job of face masks is to protect others. They help to prevent the spread of the virus”.

What can we learn from other countries?

The pandemic represents a different problem for each country, city, community and family. New York and Spain demonstrate this difference. Both regions are among the most affected, but the outbreaks have had different evolutions.

“The difference is that New York has not had any resurgence while Spain has had quite the opposite; the second wave is more or less of the same magnitude as the first. A very important distinction between these two regions was in the opening of places such as restaurants, bars and cafes. These are not open in New York, where there is only takeaway service,” shares Torres.

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It seems like a small thing, but it is not. A study by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that of 154 adults who tested positive for coronavirus, most were likely to say that they had eaten at a restaurant in the two weeks before symptoms began.

“The difference is important because they detected that those who tested positive had been to restaurants, bars, cafés, and were there for a certain period of time. This means that it is a major risk factor. And that made the difference between Spain and New York,” explains the TecSalud doctor.

In the process of restarting the economy, specialists suggest taking into account this type of international experience so as to reduce the spread of infections.

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Recommendations for governments

Tecnológico de Monterrey is part of Juntos por la Salud (Together for Health), an initiative developed by the private sector and the government, which works to ensure that the health sector has everything it needs to face the pandemic. Through donations, they have begun to protect those who on the first line of defense: medical, administrative, and cleaning personnel, and security guards.

Emilio Fueyo Saldaña, a specialist in Economics and Public Policy, and a member of the Juntos por la Salud initiative, explains that, in addition to helping 650 hospitals in 32 states of the country, the initiative has made recommendations and developed campaigns for prevention. Some of them include:

Safeguarding vulnerable groups.

Improving hospital and patient care capacity.

Reactivating the economy without increasing the risk of catching the virus.

Efforts to adapt the textile industry to making face masks in Mexico.

Campaigns to promote the use of face masks, in association with the Mexican soccer league.

Planning the supply of medicines.

“We cannot take care of just ourselves; we have to work together. We must follow all the measures indicated by medical institutions and the government, such as the use of face masks, and above all, getting information from reliable sources,” says Fueyo Saldaña.