The workplace, bars, restaurants, public transport, church and sports stadia are some of the places humans frequent daily in the 21st Century. 

Birthdays, dates, business meetings, prayer groups, clubs and family gathering are just but a few of the social networks humans cannot do without. 

However, following the outbreak of Covid-19, a new buzzword has taken response efforts by storm social distancing.  

This involves not mixing with people for work or play or not going out of homes except for essentials.

The places and groupings which have always been part of human interaction are now the most dangerous places to be at, at least for a few days.

One cannot avoid the workplace because they need a salary at the end of the day. How is it possible to avoid the workplace? And if one has to go to work, how is it possible to get there without using public transport?

Medical experts are answering these and many more questions around social distancing by saying everyone must behave as if they already have coronavirus.

By going to public places, one puts not only themselves but thousands at risk.

The escalation of Covid-19 cases in Italy is a case in point.

A month ago, Italy had recorded only three confirmed Covid-19 cases. Life in Italy a month ago, was like life in Zimbabwe today.

Only a few cases have been recorded. Bar and nightclubs are still open until the wee hours of the following day. 

The faithful are still trooping to church. People are squeezing their way into public transport. The register is being ticked at the workplace.

Today, life in Italy has changed dramatically. The stats are frightening: Coronavirus cases (53 578), deaths (4 825) and recovered cases (6 072).

Italy now has the highest number of deaths in the world and is only second to China, where the virus originated in Wuhan Province, in Covid-19 cases.

Spain now has the third-highest number of infections worldwide. 

On Saturday it reported almost 5 000 new cases in the past day, bringing the total to nearly 25 000. The death toll rose to  1 326, up from 1 002 Friday.

America is sitting on fourth, with New York and Washington recording 94 and 76 deaths, respectively.

Social distancing is needed to prevent the rapid spread of Covid-19. Distancing also helps in protecting the vulnerable, the elderly and children.

The lesson that we learn from Italy is that complacency kills.

We all have a part in preventing the spread of Covid-19. While most people will recover from the virus in a few days, the elderly and those facing other conditions may fail to recover.  

People infected with the coronavirus can spread it easily, even if they’re not yet experiencing severe symptoms of the disease. Self-isolation is critical when experiencing symptoms. 

Computer modelling suggests that each new Covid-19 case infects 2.5 other people on average when no effort is made to keep people apart.

Respiratory infections are most commonly spread through the air by viral particles in droplets from a cough or sneeze, while a study by the US National Institutes of Health shows that if the droplets fall on to a surface, the active virus is detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and two or three days on plastic and steel.

The most effective way to protect against Covid-19 is to minimise encounters with other people and keeping two metres away when you do meet.

As we report elsewhere in this paper, the past weekend has shown that Zimbabweans are not taking the Covid-19 threat seriously. It is business as usual for most Zimbabweans but for how long?

Let’s learn from Italy.