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Is 14-day quarantine effective against spread of COVID-19?

what quarantine means in coronavirus

Ground Report | News Desk

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a virus that has spread quickly throughout the world. COVID-19 spreads easily between people who are in close contact, or through coughs and sneezes. Most infected people suffer mild, flu-like symptoms but some become seriously ill and even die.

There is no effective treatment or vaccine (a medicine that stops people catching a specific disease) for COVID-19, so other ways of slowing (controlling) its spread are needed. One of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for controlling the disease is quarantine.

But what is Quarantine?

The concept of ‘quarantine’ is radically embedded in local and global health practices and culture, attracting heightened interest during episodes of perceived or actual epidemics.

According to the WHO, the quarantine of persons is the restriction of activities of or the separation of persons who are not ill but who may have been exposed to an infectious agent or disease, with the objective of monitoring their symptoms and ensuring the early detection of cases.

Quarantine is different from isolation, which is the separation of ill or infected persons from others to prevent the spread of infection or contamination. Introducing quarantine, according to the WHO: “aims to delay the introduction of the disease to a country or area or may delay the peak of an epidemic in an area where local transmission is ongoing, or both”.

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Is 14 days long enough to contain COVID-19?

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the incubation period of COVID-19 could be up to 14 days, this upper limit was actually observed for a small proportion of cases of SARS. In the context of an accelerating COVID-19 epidemic and growing uncertainty, a higher upper limit (possibly 21 days) for the incubation period seems reasonable and warranted in the interest of adequately protecting the public.

Quarantine measures separate and restrict the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease, so as to provide appropriate care if they become ill, and to protect the public from infection. Discharging someone from quarantine before the end of the actual incubation period of the disease can prove disastrous, if that person subsequently develops the disease while not contained. We must get the upper limit of the incubation period right, or we could defeat the purpose of quarantining.

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Countries have adapted this recommendation and will request travellers to observe a 14 day self-quarantine upon arrival from a foreign country and other parts of country.

For COVID-19, current research suggests that the typical incubation period is about five days and around 99% of the people who get infected and develop symptoms will do so within 14 days.

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  • Wahid Bhat

    Wahid Bhat is an environmental journalist with a passion for covering climate change and environmental issues. He holds a degree in English Journalism (EJ) from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and has received Media Fellow for NFI India (National Foundation for India) and Thomson Reuters Foundation. Wahid's reporting has been published in a range of respected outlets including Earth Journalism, Global Village Space, The Quint, Youth Ki Awaaz, and Devdiscourse

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