The new coronavirus is creating a lot of global concern. It is, along with the seasonal flu, a form of influenza or respiratory illness.
The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide, annual influenza epidemics result in about three million to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths.
One wonders how many of these could have been prevented by observing personal hygiene and civic consciousness.
When one is down with influenza or cold, the person should wear a mask.
This helps to prevent the deposit of large droplets from coughing or sneezing anywhere else.
It also signals to others that the person is unwell and to take the necessary precautions.
This is a form of social responsibility and also benefits the wearer - the cycle of respiratory infections will be significantly reduced, which means the person currently unwell will less likely be infected the next time.
Along with observing personal hygiene, such as proper sanitisation of hands, this should significantly reduce the incidence of respiratory illnesses or the common cold.
Currently, a person may feel embarrassed, or that it is unnecessary to wear a mask when unwell in Singapore as it is not a social practice. But with the seasonal flu and possible new forms of respiratory illnesses occurring with increasing frequency, there should be strong public education and effort in developing the habit.
It should be expected and applauded that one wears a mask when he is unwell as that displays civic consciousness, while those who refuse to do so are frowned upon.
This should be an additional social norm in Singapore going forward.
George Ong Yong Tze