So you know about hand-washing and social distancing and managing your sneezes and your coughs. You’re complying with the lock-down regulations. You’re on top of the situation. You’ve got this. Right? Well, maybe not – perhaps there are a few subtleties that have escaped you, or a few areas where you’re still confused. We don’t blame you because in all truth nobody was really prepared for this brand-new virus, by far the worst pandemic in over 100 years, and nobody has all the answers. But we think we can help with a bit of information and a few suggestions around some subtleties and finer-points regarding how to combat Coronavirus. Let’s take a look at some…
Sanitising is simple – we’re all paying much more attention to hygiene than ever before. We know that the virus can survive on skin and on various surfaces, in some cases for days, so we’re furiously scrubbing and scrubbing everything we can think of. Many of us are buying, or trying to buy, all manner of medical-grade disinfectants and cleaning products that we feel sure will protect us better than what we normally use. This is a mistake. All available evidence shows that simple soap and water is extremely effective against Coronavirus. Any soap. Any clean water (does not have to be hot even, although the soap may lather a little better is the water is warm). You do not need anything else or anything more “medical”. By all means use some bleach-based products (or mix your own 2% bleach-in-water solution for cleaning household surfaces etc.) because these also work well and can be quite convenient and cost-effective. But you do not need anything more than soap and water.
Mask mistakes – we know that masks are essential for infected patients and for front-line healthcare workers and anyone dealing the public (e.g. police officers, and shop staff) and we know that they need either N95 “respirators” or surgical masks. It’s now widely agreed that the general public can and should wear masks when out in public. But there are several mistakes we need to avoid here. Masks do not guarantee protection so we should still follow all recommended distancing and hygiene measures. Once you put on a mask you should never touch the front of the mask. Never. Not ever. This means fitting it on carefully (with clean hands) and then leaving it alone until you take it off. When removing your mask you should use/touch only the ties or elastics and never the front of the mask (this is one of the reasons for not using “Buffs” or “cowboy-style” masks, which are very hard to take-off safely). When you take the mask off, you should immediately dispose of it (if it is a single-use mask) or wash it (if it is a multi-use fabric mask). Once you have disposed of or washed the mask you should wash your hands thoroughly. Tragically, many of our leaders do not follow these guidelines and we see this on television daily – please do not follow their bad example.
DIY, please – all types of personal protective equipment (PPE) are in short supply worldwide. Despite major manufacturing efforts this will remain the case for many months to come. Please protect supplies, which are essential for patients and front-line workers, by making your own masks. These can be made using simple things that almost every household will have (e.g. t-shirts, handkerchiefs, bandannas, paper towels, rubber bands). Many masks do not even require any sewing. This is one little opportunity to support our heroic front line workers, so please do your bit.
Gloves? We’ve all seen people using gloves. It seems like a good idea, and it may be. But it can also create a false sense of security and even increase the risk of spreading infection. The virus can live on gloves, probably just as well as it can live on skin. So while gloves create an effective barrier for your hands, the gloves themselves can be a source of infection. Once you have gloves on, you must not touch your face. Not ever. When removing gloves you should learn to do so by turning them inside-out as you remove them (so you do not touch the outside of the gloves at all). Gloves must be disposed of as soon they are taken off. You must wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you remove your gloves. On balance, we might be best-advised to not use gloves but rather focus on hand-washing and careful hygiene in general – but if you do use gloves please be careful to use them correctly.
Sanitising supplies? There has been concern that because Coronavirus survives on various surfaces, it might come into your home via your groceries and other supplies. This appears to be a legitimate concern although most experts say the risk is really very low. If “very low” is not good enough for you then you can clean/sanitise all packaging before you pack it away in your home. When doing this we suggest a few things:
- Create a “dirty space” that is clearly separated from the “clean space”. Ideally this would a line across the entrance to your home, or perhaps a space in your garage. It may help to draw or tape a clear line to visually separate the dirty and clean spaces.
- Ideally, two people should work together on this task. One handles the dirty side and cleans all packaging, while the second person takes the cleaned items and packs them away. If you have to work alone, try to complete the dirty-side work and then wash your hands before tackling the clean-side work.
- You can clean items with soapy water or with a 2% bleach solution (e.g. 10ml bleach in 500ml water; only remains potent for 24-48 hours only so do not store for long periods).
- It is a good idea to wash or sanitise your hands regularly during this sanitising task.
- When the task is complete, clean the entire area with soapy water or bleach solution.
- Once you have done all this it is a good idea to place all your clothing in the laundry and have a shower.
Sensible shopping – in the face of a pandemic we stay at home and self-isolate as much as we can. But we do have to get out for essential supplies and this can be a risky time where we are exposed to potentially-infectious people. Here are a few tips to help manage this risky time:
- Plan – a clear and organised shopping list will help to you to get in and out of the shops as quickly as possible. It will also help you to shop as infrequently as possible – most families should be able to avoid the shops altogether for two weeks at a time, and still have sufficient supplies and plenty of healthy food.
- Distance – make a point of staying at least 2m away from people at all time. If necessary, politely ask others to keep their distance.
- Forego – if you do-without luxuries and just buy essentials you’ll save time. Do you really need chocolates? Coke? Sashimi? Deli-meats? Sponge cakes? Cookies? A little bit of “shopping austerity” will save you time, and money too!
- One at a time – it’s best to send just one person to do the shopping for your household, to reduce the exposure and the risk of infection. This is not the time for the whole family to go on a shopping excursion.
Don’t touch! One of the simplest but most effective ways to reduce exposure to Coronavirus is to stop touching your face. It’s believed that may people get infected by bringing the virus from their hands to their face and then into their nose & throat (where it thrives and multiplies, making us sick). So we’re advised to wash our hands. A lot. OK. But we also need to get out of the habit of touching our faces. It’s estimated that we touch our faces many hundreds of times a day so the risk is quite real. It’s not an easy habit to change but now is the time to start….er….to stop!
So there are some ideas on some of the more subtle aspects of reducing your risk of becoming infected with Coronavirus. It’s not a complete list so please do add your own thoughts below. But please be careful to only make legitimate suggestions and to present worthwhile advice – no fake-news and no unproven “my auntie said” ideas please.