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The Round-Up: Week of 1 June

A weekly digest of health and wellness stories from Singapore and around the world.

As we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, you'll find articles that help you stay informed about the novel coronavirus.

Singapore’s gradual opening is wisest course, says experts

The story

Singapore has opted for phasing in the easing of circuit breaker measures over several weeks, perhaps even months, even though number of daily community cases is low.

Why have they done that?

Health experts say opening up too quickly could lead to a second wave of infections even worse than the first.

Professor Leo Yee-Sin, executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases says “For every step that we take, we learn from it and we adjust along the way till one day we know more about this virus and we know a better coping mechanism.”

The rationale

Professor Teo Yik Ying, Dean of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, references the Spanish flu, which started in 1918.

“Based on experience with past pandemics, opening up the country too quickly could lead to a second wave of infections that is even worse than the first,” he says. "This stress testing of different sectors, allowing particular sectors to resume in a slow manner...that is the only way that you can figure out which sector in your particular country is likely to experience a resurgence of infection".

Social responsibility matters

There isn’t a guarantee that when restrictive measures are eased, there won’t be a resurgence. Professor Teo adds that the risk isn’t down to a particular activity, but rather how people behave; if they do not take personal responsibility to protect themselves and others.

Read more in The Straits Times

Zoom Fatigue might be the reason you’re so exhausted these days

The story: Video chat is more draining than interacting in person, hence the term, Zoom Fatigue.

Right. Why’s that?

We have to work harder to interpret non-verbal communication. We're so used to listening to voices and picking up social cues, even a person's energy, when we interact with people face-to-face. On Zoom or another type of video chat, our brain has to work overtime to process the information and social cues it’s not used to identifying.

The experience on being on screen is also similar to the feeling of being on stage, and there's compulsion to perform, which requires more energy than a simple interaction, according to Diana Concannon, PsyD, psychologist and dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University.

What to do if you've got Zoom Fatigue

Here's what the experts suggest:

1) Set up a day for digital detox, give your brain time to reset and focus on non-digital stimulation.

2) Don’t use your camera and only focus on people's voices. This will stop you from scrambling to look for which person is talking and watching them talk while your brain subconsciously searches for social cues.

Read more in Health

Will wearing masks change the way we communicate?

The Story

Adults are used to reading faces as a whole and if we're all going to be masked up for a while more, then we will have to adapt quickly and rely on prolonged eye contact

Haven't we always made eye contact?

Not for that long. A British study found that people look at each other only 30-60% of the time when talking. Now that we're all wearing masks, there is less on show to offer those all-important non-verbal clues to how we are feeling. 55% of communication is non-verbal, and our facial expressions are a great part of that.

What science tells us

Gazing into another’s eyes - and holding it - sets off a whole raft of brain processes. It's not necessarily romantic, even if it makes you blush. The body produces a chemical called phenylethylamine when you look someone directly in the eyes, helping the brain grapple with the overwhelming awareness that we are looking at another person.

Right. What does this all mean?

Possibly, more empathy and compassion for fellow humans. Eye contact can be powerful, think of the Mona Lisa, or consider the results of the study carried out by psychologist Arthur Aron. He made two strangers fall in love in his lab by silently holding eye contact for four minutes(they were married six months later).

Read more in The Guardian

Do copper face masks work better?

The story

Wearing masks has become the norm for most of us, but many mask vendors are promoting methods that offer extra protection, including cotton or polyester masks infused with copper.

Is it effective against Covid-19?

It's promising, according to Michael Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology.

Decades of research shows that bacteria and viruses that land on metallic copper surfaces are killed on contact. A March study in the New England Journal of Medicine found in a laboratory setting that copper can inactivate a high concentration of the novel coronavirus within four hours.

There are some doubts, of course.

It's the physical barrier that's the most important (to inhibit the spray of the virus), rather than any concept of inactivation of the virus, says Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Disease in Bethesda, Maryland. Also, studying copper in the laboratory is different from the real world, so it's hard to know under what settings and concentrations of the virus that a copper mask would kill it.

The bottomline

In addition to copper's antimicrobial benefits, these masks tend to be durable; however, most retailers have not put their products through the necessary research to prove these antiviral claims.

In Singapore, Krisshop carries Korean brand, Copperline. Its masks are made from a world-first patented copper nano-technology knitted fabric, and has been tested according to ASTM standards (American Society of Testing Materials).

Read more in Today

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