COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be a serious condition for a person of any age. In the midst of the current pandemic, The Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, reported that up to 80% of Afghanistan could become infected with the novel coronavirus unless serious measures are undertaken to prevent its spread. While some of these measures will entail structural changes to prepare the healthcare system, there are specific actions you can take as an individual to safeguard yourself against the virus. Although not a guarantee of good health, the following essential preventive tips could go a long way in helping you protect yourself and your loved ones:

  1. Wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Soap dismantles the viral particles in a way that water alone does not. Be sure to clean in between the fingers as well as the fingernails.
  2. Avoid touching the face, even when you believe your hands are clean. The mucosal tissues of the nose, eyes, and mouth are passageways for viral entry.
  3. Stay at least 6 feet away from others, as much as possible. This is known as social distancing and keeps the virus from jumping from person to person.
  4. Wipe down and disinfect commonly touched surfaces with soap or detergent, including any surfaces on which you prepare food. Although there is no evidence at this time to suggest that the virus spreads through food, it is generally an important time to practice good hygiene.
  5. If you need to cough or sneeze, do so in the nook of your elbow, not your hand. Because you touch more surfaces with your hands, you don’t want to inadvertently spread germs this way.
  6. If possible, stay at home as much as you can. People with the novel coronavirus may be asymptomatic and unaware that they are spreading the virus.
  7. Preliminary research suggests that COVID-19 is most fatal for the elderly. If you are elderly or have a compromised immune system, it is especially advisable for you to avoid social gatherings and practice good hygiene at this time.
  8. There is a shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves, for healthcare professionals at this time. If you have the skill set to sew these items, this might be a way to help your local healthcare facility.


  • Henna Hundal holds a degree in stem cell biology from Harvard College. She has served as a researcher at the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. She also hosts a health-focused radio program, The Henna Hundal Show, which can be accessed at You can reach her on Twitter at @hennahundal.

  • Sai Shanthanand Rajagopal is an incoming medical student at Harvard Medical School and a Rhodes Scholar. A biomedical device designer, Sai has worked on technologies for paraplegic patients and focuses on the intersection of gender, technology, and 3D-printed prostheses in conflict-prone areas in the Middle East.