Since the coronavirus outbreak, health officials and experts have advised washing hands regularly for 20 seconds at a time.
– Why is hand-washing so important?
Germs, including viruses like Covid-19, exist on surfaces in our everyday living spaces says Wendy Graham, professor in the department of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Graham said hands are one of the most common means by which germs are transferred from surface to surface. For example via door handles and taps, and potentially then to other parts of the body like the mouth.
– How long can coronavirus survive on surfaces?
The virus is thought to be able to remain on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours and soft surfaces for 24 hours, deputy chief medical officer for England Jenny Harries has said.
She said as a precaution, officials are using a 72-hour upper limit. But added that it isn’t a strong virus and can be cleaned with normal household detergents.
– How can people reduce their exposure to germs?
Try not to touch certain surfaces, keep surfaces at home and at work clean and regularly wash your hands thoroughly.
People showing any symptoms have been advised to self-isolate for a period of seven days.
– What if I have to use public transport?
Graham advises washing hands if you have to touch surfaces which are frequently touched by other people, like handrails, poles and grab handles on tubes, trains and buses.
– Is my mobile phone spreading germs?
Devices you touch often, like your mobile phone, should be kept clean using a wipe recommended by the manufacturer, Graham said. The same applies to surfaces such as a keyboard and mouse at work.
Another expert, Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology and director of UCL Genetics Institute, said phones aren’t a major spreader unless they’re being shared between users.
On disinfecting them, Balloux said:
It wouldn’t do any harm, but unless we share our phone with others, it is not obvious to me how disinfecting them could protect us, or limit the spread of Covid-19.
– What else can I do?
Graham recommends using a tissue to open and close toilet doors. She advised to throw the tissue away afterwards and then wash your hands.
A person using a tissue to hold onto a handrail(Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Graham reiterated official guidance to ensure you wash your hands before and after arriving at work. And also at home, and as often as possible throughout the day.
Restoration retailer Handbag Clinic advised that care should be taken around other items like handbags. They should be cleaned and not set on the floor or other unclean surfaces.
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