Strategies for preventing transmission of the disease include overall good personal hygiene, hand washing, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, coughing/sneezing into a tissue and putting the tissue directly into a dustbin. Those who may already have the infection have been advised to wear a surgical mask in public. Social distancing measures are also recommended to prevent transmission.
Many governments have restricted or advised against all non-essential travel to and from countries and areas affected by the outbreak. However, the virus has reached the stage of community spread in large parts of the world. This means that the virus is spreading within communities whose members have not traveled to areas with widespread transmission.
Health care providers taking care of someone who may be infected are recommended to use standard precautions, contact precautions and airborne precautions with eye protection.
Contact tracing is an important method for health authorities to determine the source of an infection and to prevent further transmission. Misconceptions are circulating about how to prevent infection, for example: rinsing the nose and gargling with mouthwash are not effective.
As of 13 March 2020, there is no COVID-19 vaccine, though a number of organizations are working to develop one.
Hand washing is recommended to prevent the spread of the disease. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the toilet or when hands are visibly dirty; before eating; and after blowing one\'s nose, coughing, or sneezing. It further recommended using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol by volume when soap and water are not readily available. The WHO advises people to avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Health organizations recommended that people cover their mouth and nose with a bent elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing (the tissue should then be disposed of immediately). Surgical masks are recommended for those who may be infected, as wearing a mask can limit the volume and travel distance of expiratory droplets dispersed when talking, sneezing and coughing. The WHO has issued instructions on when and how to use masks.
Masks have also been recommended for use by those taking care of someone who may have the disease. WHO has recommended the wearing of masks by healthy people only if they are at high risk, such as those who are caring for a person with COVID-19, although masks may help people avoid touching their faces.
Surgical masks are the lowest grade of protection, and are designed mainly to protect others from the wearer. Masks designed to protect the wearer are technically "respirators", though calling them "masks" is common. Only China has specifically recommended the use of masks by healthy members of the public, while in March, the Czech Republic banned going out in public without wearing a mask or covering one\'s nose and mouth. Nevertheless, face masks have been widely used by healthy people in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Social distancing includes infection control actions intended to slow the spread of disease by minimizing close contact between individuals. Methods include quarantines; travel restrictions; and the closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theatres, or shopping centres. Individuals may apply social distancing methods by staying at home, limiting travel, avoiding crowded areas, using no-contact greetings, and physically distancing themselves from others.
Many governments are now mandating or recommending social distancing in regions affected by the outbreak.
Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, and compromised immune systems face increased risk of serious illness and complications and have been advised by the US CDC to stay home as much as possible in areas of community outbreak.
Self-isolation at home has been recommended for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who suspect they have been infected. Health agencies have issued detailed instructions for proper self-isolation.
Additionally, many governments have mandated or recommended self-quarantine for entire populations living in affected areas. The strongest self-quarantine instructions have been issued to those in high risk groups. Those who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and those who have recently travelled to a country with widespread transmission have been advised to self-quarantine for 14 days from the time of last possible exposure.