Keep separate towels, don't venture out at noon: Govt

Keep separate towels, don't venture out at noon: NDMA advice on heatwave during COVID-19

Pedestrians cover their heads to shield from the scorching sun, on a hot summer day, in New Delhi, Monday, June 10, 2019. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)

Keep separate towels for each member of the family and wash it regularly, don't venture out between 12 noon and 3 pm, ensure that those having food at workplace stand at least one metre apart – these are among the do's and don'ts suggested to fight heat wave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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With summer setting in, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued extensive guidelines for the public as well as employers and workers incorporating the situation arising out of the current situation.

Since 2015, India has lost at least 3,775 people due to heatwave as per official statistics though activists have put these numbers much higher. While the numbers were high at 2,040 in 2015 and 2016, the numbers have been brought down to 384 in 2017 and 25 the next year, according to an NDMA document.

It also said India faced an "even more intense, severe and prolonged period" of a heatwave last year compared with the last four years but the number of deaths could be restricted to 215.

A heatwave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the north-western parts of India. Heatwaves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.

With COVID-19 spreading, officials said the situation has changed further and there is a need to factor in the pandemic situation while issuing guidelines to ensure that social distancing norms and other health precautions are taken.

The NDMA advisory suggests that people should stay home, listen to the radio, watch TV or read newspapers for updates on local weather and COVID-19 situation.

It advises people to drink more water, even if not thirsty but those with epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease who are on fluid-restricted diets should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

While drinking water is advised, the advisory asks people to avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks as it dehydrates the body. "Avoid high-protein, spicy and oily food. Do not eat stale food. Don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth without washing your hands," it said.

Those venturing out should cover their head and face and avoid touching any surface as far as possible. Especially those who go out for "essential work" should schedule their journey during the cooler period of the day and should avoid travel during 12 noon and 3 pm.

Employers should caution workers to avoid direct sunlight. "If they have to work in the open (agricultural labourers, MNREGS workers etc), ensure that they cover their heads and faces at all times," the advisory said.

Strenuous jobs should be scheduled to cooler times of the day and the employers should increase the frequency and length of rest breaks for outdoor activities, it said.

"Make all the workers wear face covers, maintain a physical distance of 1-1.5 metre from others and practice hand hygiene. Provide soap and water for frequent hand washing. Caution them to not touch their faces without washing their hands," the employers are told.

Sanitation workers should cover their heads, wear masks and gloves and they should ensure that they do not touch the mask after wearing it, the advisory added.

Deaths due to heatwaves in India over the years

2015 – 2040

2016 – 1111

2017 – 384

2018 – 25

2019 – 215

Total – 3775

Source: NDMA

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