Coronavirus: The Challenges of Social Distancing in a Crowded Country

Date: 2020-04-01 04:53:57

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In tightly packed impoverished areas throughout Southeast Asia, there is little room for social distancing among the crowded allies and crammed public transport, where the deadly new coronavirus could spread rapidly.
So far Bangladesh has confirmed over 30 cases of infection and at least five deaths. But of these, the case of two men who died in their seventies is particularly worrying.

Neither the two friends, nor their families had been abroad.

Worried about community transmission, the government ordered a closure of all offices on Monday and urged people to maintain social distance.

But in Dhaka, where the average home is 119.4 square feet (11 square metres), only one-fifth of the population have more than one bedroom and a million people live in shanty towns, that is easier said than done.

Sarwar Hossain, who lives in a Dhaka shanty town known as Korail, said keeping proper distance from his hundred of thousands of neighbors just isn’t realistic.

“It is impossible to keep people six inches apart from one another in such a place; let alone maintain three feet distance,” he said.

The new virus, unlike SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, spreads as easily as the common cold.

In the Philippines, Jenifer Oduya lives in a crowded area of Manila and said it’s hard enough just to find space to eat without touching people.

A shanty town in Indonesia’s Jakarta lines the outside of a giant apartment complex – reflecting the striking divide between those who can easily socially distance themselves and others who would find it difficult.

Muhamad Nasir, in the shanty town of Muara Baru village, said it would be difficult for the government to enforce social distancing.

If there is an outbreak in these areas, the lack of formal infrastructure and facilities could make matters worse.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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