Updated: Mar 20, 2020
I have had a lot of questions about what we can do to avoid getting infected and of course infecting others. There is a very vigorous discussion on Twitter about how to prevent this and what the government should be doing. You may wish to follow Dr Norman Swan @normanswan and Dr Ian Mackay @MackayIM.
The ABC Insiders program on Sunday March 15th (iview) is worth a look if you are interested in some of the lack of detail.
Take home message
Those who wash their hands frequently have significantly fewer infections in general. That is why HAND WASHING IS SO IMPORTANT.
My personal approach
Always carry sanitiser in pocket
Have sanitiser pump bottle in car
Use it after touching any potentially suspect surfaces or objects
Allow it to dry on the hands
Make sure kids have some every day – rinse and repeat!
Maintain distance of 2 metres from anyone if outside
And did I mention wash hands, wash hands, and wash hands for 20-30 seconds.
I would expect manufacturers will ramp up production if at all possible and when the hoarding stops there should be adequate supplies.
If you have run out of hand sanitiser you can make it up as long as it has 60% -70% alcohol content (preferably around 70%). This can be tricky to get the alcohol concentration right so as not to cause excess drying of the skin and to ensure the alcohol concentration is adequate.
Soap and water is believed to be better but may not be convenient. And as my dear late grandmother used to say when confronted by someone with dubious personal hygiene, “Soap is cheap!”
Click here for WHO advice on making sanitiser
Based on some preliminary research COVID 19 may survive up to 2-3 days on plastic and steel, 24 hours on cardboard and 4 hours on copper. So hard surfaces can be an issue if you touch them then transfer them to face including eyes, mouth, and nose.
Suspect surfaces or objects include
Bus and train seats and hand rails
Door handles in taxis and Ubers (and any car frankly)
Taps in bathrooms – I always use a paper towel to shut them and the door handle and then dispose of the towel. If no towels I use sanitiser instead and wash thoroughly later
Cash coins and notes – these get handled a lot
Petrol bowsers – you know what I have observed from sitting in Sydney traffic for thousands of hours? People are disgusting when alone in their cars with where they put their fingers!
Waiting room magazines or newspapers (as if anyone still reads them)
Basically anything that is touched by other peoples’ hands or could be sneezed/coughed on and then handled (sounds like a lot!)
Pens used for signing documents such as the chemist – bring your own!
Keypads for ATM and cash registers – so use contactless payments if you have it.
Supermarket trolley/basket handles
And if travelling by air
Plastic security screening trays are often contaminated by viruses in general. They are obligatory to use and frequently handled by thousands of people. There is a study on this (although small sample size). I am not aware of how often they are disinfected or cleaned. Someone out there may know?
Personally, I use sanitiser very frequently when travelling. I always wash or sanitise hands before eating.
I take a resealable pack of sanitiser cloths with me and when I get on a plane I wipe down:
Seatbelt buckles and straps
And usual precautions for other handles etc.
Allow the sanitiser to dry before using or use and sanitiser after use of uncleaned surface.
And the following loosely based Australian Government advice with a bit more detail
Practice good hygiene
Cover your coughs/sneezes with your elbow or a tissue then safely dispose of tissue
Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating or going to the toilet
Teach kids to do the same and reinforce it
Stop touching your face
Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers especially when out and about
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly
If you are sick, avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 -2 metres away from people
Stay home if unwell
Avoid any social gatherings
Keep at least 1.5 – 2 metres away from other people whenever possible
No physical contact with other people unless necessary
My additional suggestions for social distancing
If you have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, immune suppression, diabetes, older age or a combination then I would suggest that despite the governments advice you avoid any public gatherings such as meetings, restaurants, cinemas etc where you may be with a group of unknown people for a prolonged period.
Choose shopping times such as when the supermarket has just opened for the day e.g. 6am as there are fewer people around and surfaces might be less contaminated. Still be careful to wash hands. If you can get someone to do the shopping or get it delivered, then even better. Of course, only travel in public transport if really necessary.
If you must attend the gym please maintain 1.5m distance and wash hands or sanitise FREQUENTLY and for goodness sake do not touch your face!
Surgical masks should be worn by an infected person to help prevent them from infecting others.
The use of them for preventing infection in the community is controversial. Some research suggests no benefit, but there is a suggestion that they may help by stopping people from touching their face.
They are in extremely short supply now so I would suggest that you PRACTICE and remind yourself and others to avoid touching your face (people touch their face about 200 times per day!!).
None available yet – may be a year away.
None yet shown to work – trials underway. Watch this space for updates.
Best practice for businesses
For more information on how to plan and manage pandemics such as Coronavirus for your business, click here and register your interest for our webinar taking place on Wednesday March 18th 10am to 11:30am.
I would welcome any comments and feel free to share.