Here is a simple idea to maintain social distancing--ask people to take an umbrella when they go out. This Eureka moment came to Dr Kutikuppala Suryarao when he and his colleagues went to Raitu Bazaar in Visakhapatnam and asked people crowding there if they had heard of social distancing. About 85% of them said no. The rest said they had heard of it but didn't know how to maintain it.
"Physical distancing is the only solution to prevent COVID-19. And to maintain it, there is no easier way than to have an umbrella in one's hand. A regular umbrella has a diameter of four feet, plus you can always shield yourself with it if someone sneezes or coughs. Even poor families have an umbrella at home. In this heat of 35-40 degrees, it's in any case a good idea to carry an umbrella," says Suryarao, a Padma Shri awardee for his work in fighting AIDS.
Recently the Prime Minister's Office held a video conference with experts to come up with ways of maintaining social distancing and Dr Suryarao Umbrella Principle was lauded by all. A few international agencies have also found it a good idea.
Every research body like the WHO, Centre for Diseases Control, US and India's ICMR have all said that physical distancing is the only way to fight the pandemic. As it is a concept difficult to make people understand in India, simply ask them to carry an umbrella when they step out, says Suryarao. It will also be easy to keep the umbrella sanitised at home.
“As per my research on viruses for the last three decades I have no doubt that this corona scourge won’t leave us at least for another twelve months. So we need life skills to live with it," says Suryarao. And the humble umbrella is one of them.