Social distancing has become a buzzword in pandemic times. Coronavirus came into our lives and changed EVERYTHING. We had to adopt new ways and behaviours in our daily lives we did not think would become compulsory just a year ago.
We may have all of modern medicine and knowledge at our disposal and quickly devise out rules to tackle pandemic, but few of us know that rules of social distancing and pandemic control were formally set up by a man 432 years ago.
The man, or the doctor, was Quinto Tiberio Angelerio. During his stay in Italian port town of Alghero, he noticed early signs of the bubonic plague in 1852 and decided to take quick action.
50-year-old Dr Angelerio had recently come from Sicily, which had seen an epidemic in 1575.
Angelerio wrote a book based on his knowledge and experience and prescribed 57 rules for public to follow. The rules are strikingly familiar to those we are following today to combat COVID-19 pandemic
One of the most striking of his rules was of social distancing. He prescribed that each citizen should carry a measured stick and keep a six-foot distance from other people.
The doctor advised people to stay inside their homes. He said that only one person from a household should head out to run essential errands. He asked people to thoroughly wash and disinfect their homes.
He advised against handshakes, holding meetings, organising entertainment programs.
He insisted that food shops erect railings so that customers can maintain distance from one another.
Dr Angelerio hounded local authorities to establish a cordon around the city so that infection doesn’t spread to neighbouring districts.
These measures appear normal to us today, but 400 years ago, this was markedly a forward-thinking exercise carried out by Dr Angelerio.
His efforts met with stiff resistance initially as public and local authorities rubbished his plan. They thought he was unnecessarily worrying and talking about an apocalyptic situation. Undeterred, Dr Angelerio directly met the viceroy and got a go-ahead.
His efforts paid off and the infection was succesfully contained. It did not spread to adjacent districts.
It was a time before modern medicine and next to nothing was known about how diseases are caused. The general understanding was that diseases were caused due to “bad air” and Vinegar was considered an excellent antiseptic.
The traditional ‘medical treatments’ consisted of bizarre practices such as bathing in urine.
It was hence commendable on Dr Angelerio’s part to come up with a list of rules based on his advanced medical knowledge.