• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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COVID-19: Spain’s ban on public smoking provides new dimension to community spread

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Galicia, a Spanish region, has banned public smoking to curb the spread of COVID-19, providing a new dimension to community spread.

Galicia, populated by over 2.7 million people, has taken the bull by the horns with the imposition of a blanket restriction on public smoking since adherence to physical distancing measures remains elusive.

The move comes on the heels of an escalating record of daily new cases from fewer than 150 in June to 1,690 mid-August. The heightened risk of transmission is attributed to the fact that smokers project droplets – and potentially Covid-19 – when they exhale smoke. They are also susceptible by touching their cigarette before bringing it to their mouth and by handling face masks when taking them on and off.

“Handling of the protective mask and repetitive contact of the fingers with the mouth after touching products such as conventional cigarettes or electronics could act as fomites (inanimate transmitter) of the virus,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

“Expulsion of respiratory droplets that may contain a viral load and be highly contagious relaxation factor of the social safety distance is a given. Thus, it is recommended to follow measures hygiene in relation to the consumption of all kinds of tobacco. Its use in community and social settings should be avoided.”

Nigeria has no study yet linking smoking to the transmission of Covid-19 but the relaxation of measures and the lack of compliance with hygiene precautions continue to drive community transmission, Rosemary Audu, a professor and head of virology at the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) told BusinessDay in a phone conversation.

“We haven’t seen that at all. But even the measures that have been put in place, people are not adhering to it strictly yet. People still go out without face-masks. There is no social distancing in many instances. So community transmission is on-going. Social distancing is not the norm outside organised areas. That will encourage transmission,” Audu further said.

Nigeria’s Tobacco Act 1990 and 2015 prohibit smoking in public places. But this is not enforced. Nigeria had 49,485 COVID-19 cases with 977 deaths as of Tuesday, August 18. Though the number of cases appears to be dropping, health experts say community spread is ongoing, stressing that the low numbers do not indicate that the country has won the fight against the virus.

According to Audu, being infected with COVID-19 once does not guarantee protection against future reinfection.

She said studies are still being conducted on length of time it takes for antibodies to fizzle out.

“But there is cellular immunity. Studies are also going on as to what really protects. Is it cellular immunity or the antibodies? But we see that some are not lasting. They develop this immunity now but after a few months, it wanes off. We are studying how long it stays before it wanes off in people,” professor Audu said.