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Ho Ching: Wear masks if you feel unwell, but keeping hands clean is of prime importance

In place of soap and water, one can use hand sanitizer, strong alcohol, disinfectant, wet wipes, or even mouthwash

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Singapore — The wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Executive of Temasek Holdings, Madam Ho Ching, has sought to both allay fears over the Wuhan virus and advise people on how to protect themselves amid growing concerns about the rising numbers of those infected worldwide.

In a lengthy and much-shared post on her Facebook account, Madam Ho gave advice on  what people can do to prevent themselves from getting sick at this time, especially if their work involves serving other people.

Her first piece of advice: Don’t panic.

Then, wash or sanitise the hands regularly.

Just as Mr Lee had said in a post on Tuesday (Jan 28), Madam Ho said masks are for those who feel unwell. She added, however, to “have a mask ready if you worry that you may be meeting unknown patients”.

She also suggested alternatives in case it is not possible to wash the hands with soap and water, including using hand sanitiser, strong alcohol, disinfectant, wet wipes, or even mouthwash.

Madam Ho explained why clean hands are so important: “Like Sars, and most seasonal flu, transmission is via droplets. So the main transmission is via the hands touching surfaces contaminated by these droplets.

“We touch parts of our face regularly, scratching our nose, rubbing our eyes, putting food into our mouth, stroking our chin, etc.

“This brings the viral load to our face, to help the virus get into our nose, throat and eventually down into our lungs, where they multiply, and inflame our lungs, mess up our lung membrane to prevent proper gas exchange of CO2 from the blood and oxygen from fresh air into our blood.

“This is why one important symptom to watch for is breathlessness. Another softer indicator is dry coughs. Fever is just the side effect of our body immune system mounting a fight.”

As for masks, if these are not available, given that people have been snapping them up from the stores, Madam Ho said that a handkerchief or even a Good Morning towel would do as well, when folded “into a triangle with 2 layers, to tie over our nose and mouth, as if you are ready to be a robber in one of these cops-and-robbers movies”.

And for added protection, one can put a few layers of tissue above their mouths and noses, she wrote, “to be more kiasu and kiasi”.

She again reminded the public to cleanse their hands after handling those tissues.

Madam Ho addressed taxi and rideshare drivers as well, saying they can wipe down cabs whenever a passenger who seemed unwell rode with them.

At the end of her post she said that, since many viruses do not like warm weather, “the critical period is the next 1-3 months, hopefully only 1 month or twice the incubation period, to be watchful and ready to step up precautions and maintain vigilance, to respond quickly and decisively to the fast changing and fluid situation of an evolving pandemic”. -/TISG

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