Forum: Covid-19 safety measures have made an impact on other infectious diseases

General practitioners have seen not only a marked decrease in the incidence of influenza over the last few months, but also a noticeable decrease in the incidence of hand, foot and mouth disease, and acute gastroenteritis (No flu cases at polyclinics in 8 months, March 1).

These diseases are also spread by viruses, close human contact or improper hygiene practices. While it is possible that a proportion of the population may have chosen to stay away from doctors for fear of being tested for Covid-19 and getting five days' medical leave, it is the safety measures to combat Covid-19, such as the wearing of masks and safe distancing, that have certainly contributed to curbing the transmission of these other diseases.

Even as the number of community cases of Covid-19 remains very low and the vaccination roll-out will gradually provide the nation with herd immunity, we would be wise to carry on with the mask protection and maintain heightened hygiene awareness. We should make these practices habitual even without legal enforcement.

Who knows, this may have the salutary effect of delaying or attenuating the next viral pandemic.

Prevention is always better than cure, and a mask a day is the most cost-effective way to keep potential viruses at bay. We definitely cannot afford to spend another $100 billion in bailing out the economy the next time around.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

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