Dos and Don’ts for coronavirus

A lot of people ask me about coronavirus. Since I write about health for The Hindu, they seem to feel that I should know. It’s only fair that I share my knowledge.

First and foremost, I would like to point out that eating Chinese food does not put you at risk. Most of them buy their supplies locally. Some high-end restaurants may be importing from China, so only the rich are in danger. This is not a bad thing.

Regarding things that are strictly forbidden, do not eat bats. This is not an attempt to mock Chinese eating habits. All of us are mystified by what other people eat. There must be people in Norway who find sambar hilarious. Just because the Chinese are fond of consuming a wide variety of innocent woodland creatures, directly from the woods, we should not rush to judge them. Nevertheless, caution is called for.

Many people in India are adventurous when it comes to food items, which is why YouTube is full of videos on how to make paneer chowmein. Now is not the time for such adventures. Paneer chowmein in particular should be avoided at all times, even when there is no fear of contagion. Some people would argue that paneer itself is a contagion, but despite this rising threat, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted.

We should focus on elementary precautions to reduce the risk from coronavirus. For one thing, mummy was right, even though we ignored her when she said so. We need to wash our hands regularly, especially before cooking or eating. We need to follow what is known as coughing etiquette, which means, do not cough on other people, even if you don’t like them.

Sneezing etiquette is also extremely important. As a young boy in the UK, I was thoroughly schooled in the use of handkerchiefs, but I was misled. Do not ever sneeze into a handkerchief. It makes no sense to carefully preserve germs and carry them around in your pocket or handbag. The British can’t help it. After spending years with them in India, we know that they tend to grab and keep whatever they can lay their hands on, including bodily fluids. The rest of us should eschew this practice.

Instead, use a tissue, and carefully dispose of it afterwards. Then you should wash your hands, or use a hand sanitiser. You could also wear a mask, which has the additional benefit of making you harder to identify, but only if you’re coughing and sneezing, or live in Delhi. When you remove it at the end of the day, hold it by the strings and don’t touch the icky bits. Remember to wash your hands. Try to avoid crowded places, which gives you a good excuse for missing parties you don’t want to go to. If you are in a crowded place, and someone is coughing, quietly shuffle away until there’s a gap of at least three feet between you. Do it slowly in order to avoid being obvious.

We all hope that the outbreak ends soon, both in China and the rest of the world. But if you follow these simple precautions, you should be a safer, cleaner person.

Shovon Chowdhury’s most recent novel, Murder With Bengali Characteristics, contains some jokes about Chinese eating habits which the author now regrets

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 2:15:33 AM |

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