SINGAPORE (Feb 7): The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also known as the Wuhan coronavirus, has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation. Said to have originated in Wuhan province in China, the coronavirus pandemic – which causes respiratory illness – has infected thousands worldwide. With information changing so quickly, many are understandably worried. But with any outbreak, staying healthy and alert is key to combating the virus. Here are five ways you can stay safe and healthy in the meantime.

Don’t panic!

First off, do not panic or fall prey to scalpers on online marketplaces like Carousell selling surgical masks for $5 each. For one thing, experts say that surgical masks are not totally effective against the virus. The executive director of Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases Professor Leo Yee Sin has even said that surgical masks can only help block large particle droplets from reaching others. However, a surgical mask is not needed for those without any respiratory symptoms. “We need to have a community effort – for those individuals who display symptoms, put on a mask. This will give safety margins to many of the people without symptoms around them," he adds.

This is down to the function of a surgical mask, which is designed to keep large particle droplets of water or saliva – which carry germs – away from splattering or spreading to surfaces or other people. This is why it is usually used by healthcare workers to prevent spreading their own mouth-borne germs to patients.

Stay fit

In times like these, keeping up your exercise regime is crucial as it boosts your immune system. In one study conducted by the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked for a half hour every day for one year had half the number of colds compared to those who didn't exercise. In fact, researchers have found that regular walking may lead to a higher number of white blood cells, which fight infections. So there is no need to hit the gym and pump out a two hour workout especially if you’re unwell. However, a walk in the park could do wonders.

Eat right

To stay fit, we also recommend you drink plenty of water, boost your intake of vitamin C and get your regular five-a-day serving of fruits and vegetables. Cook at home if you can – it’s better for your waistline and wallet too.

Know the facts

With all the misinformation spreading through social media, the most important thing is to get your facts right. As a general rule, always check your sources and practice healthy scepticism. No, a reliable source is not your Third Auntie who shared a Facebook post she received from her friend who got it from her friend. Fake news thrives online. Remember that tale of the bat-eating Chinese vlogger in Wuhan which was a possible source for the animal-to-human virus transmission? Actually, that meal actually took place on a remote Pacific island long before the epidemic erupted.

Good hygiene and healthy habits go a long way in times like this. And remember – stay alert but not anxious.



● Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap (for at least 20 seconds, making sure to wash between your fingers) or using an alcohol-based sanitiser 

● Frequently sanitise commonly used or high traffic surfaces and areas, such as door handles, desks, tables and computer keyboards (yes, your keyboard contains more germs than a toilet bowl) 

● Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and immediately dispose of the tissue 

● Stay home and away from young children and elderly if you’re sick 

● Avoid close contact with those who are sick, or present symptoms like coughing, fever, or sneezing (close contact is defined as being within two metres of the sick person for more than 30 minutes)