From door handles and handrails on public transportation to disposable tissues and enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation, public health messaging encourages us to be wary of things that present genuine risks of catching the novel coronavirus. But certain other day-to-day objects -- things that you touch or share instinctively -- could also be potential sources of contamination, contributing to the spread of covid-19. Here are some things that you should handle with particular care.
Some people do everything they possibly can -- and rightly so -- to avoid touching the handrails when traveling on public transport to minimize their risk of picking up the covid-19 virus. But they may not imagine that the smartphone they're glued to during their daily commute could also be a source of contamination. Although we don't yet know the frequency or extent to which the novel coronavirus is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia have demonstrated that it can survive for up to 28 days on smartphones. The news should be taken with caution, however, because the study was carried out under strict lab conditions -- a far cry from day-to-day life. Nevertheless, it still serves as a handy reminder just how important it is to clean your smartphone regularly, wash your hands, avoid touching your face after touching the device screen, and avoid using your smartphone while eating. These basic hygiene rules should ideally be followed irrespective of the covid-19 pandemic, since smartphones can be veritable breeding grounds for bacteria.
While card payments -- especially contactless -- have been strongly advised since the onset of the pandemic, plenty of people are still using cold, hard cash. Banknotes and coins should be handled with the greatest of caution when you think about how frequently they pass from hand to hand without ever undergoing any kind of cleaning. In the CSIRO study, published in the Virology Journal, researchers report that coronavirus can also survive up to 28 days on banknotes, which means taking extra care with hygiene measures. To reduce the risk of contamination and transmission, handwashing between each exchange of cash is highly recommended. Note that the results of this vast Australian study also extend to the screens of ATMs and self-check-out machines.
Washing your hands several times a day with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer is, without a doubt, together with mask-wearing, the most important recommendation in these pandemic times. Whether you keep rings on or take them off for handwashing, have you ever considered that your jewelry could be a potential source of contamination? Although research hasn't identified this as a specific potential risk, it's evident that rings come into contact with many of the surfaces we've been advised to avoid, such as door handles, handrails on public transport, or even the desk you work at each day. Stay safe by paying close attention to your accessories and cleaning jewelry as much as possible.
A final object to handle with care is the humble cigarette lighter. Smokers might instinctively lend their lighter to anyone and everyone who asks for a light, without being able to wash hands before handing it over or after getting it back. And that can happen several times a day, whether at work or on the street. In light of this potential source of contamination, smokers might want to rethink their habits in order to help prevent the spread of covid-19.