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Covid-19: Social distancing and the domino effect

LETTER | Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has announced a movement control order that will last until March 31, 2020. This measure is an attempt to ensure social distancing between people. Public health experts have been urging people to practice social distancing to stop the spread of infection and slow the progress of the current pandemic.

A simple way of understanding the effect of social distancing is by using the domino effect concept. The domino effect is the situation in which something, usually something bad, happens, causing other similar events to happen.

The domino effect can be visualised by placing a row of dominoes upright, separated by a small distance. Upon pushing the first domino, the next domino in line will be knocked over and so on, until the entire row of dominoes is knocked over. Increasing the distance between the dominos will prevent the next domino to be knocked over, thus breaking the chain reaction.

Imagine the spread of a virus is like the toppling of a line of dominoes. The domino effect will not stop until the chain is broken. Thus, the transmission of infection will continue to occur until we break the chain by increasing the distance between people. If no preventive measures are taken and social distancing is not practised, the virus will continue to spread until it affects the entire population.

Covi-19 can be spread by tiny droplets released from the nose and mouth of an infected person when they cough or sneeze. Droplets forming a direct spray are propelled up to two meters away from an infected person. These droplets can land on other people, clothing and surfaces around them. These droplets also can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.

In this current pandemic situation, Malaysian are urged to comply with this movement control order to break the chain of infection. This to avoid the situation from becoming out of control that can result in the need for total lockdown.


The writer is an associate professor at the Social and Preventive Medicine department, Universiti Malaya.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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