The last couple of months haven been a confusing time for people all over the world. We seem to have more questions than answers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you’ve been reading the news but still have burning questions about the virus and its transmission, then this article is for you. We know that sustained hand-washing, sanitising, and self-isolation are key to #flatteningthecurve. But here we consult experts to find answers to whatever other Covid-19 questions you may have.
How long does Covid-19 last on different surfaces?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces.” However, the organisation notes that “studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).”
“As Covid-19 is a new virus we don’t know exactly how long it lasts on different surfaces,” says Dr Najia Shaikh, a British medical doctor. “However, there have been various studies done to determine the length [of time it lasts on each surface].”
Preliminary estimates have yielded the following timeframes for how long the virus can survive on a particular surface:
- Hands: Up to 24 hours, depending on how efficiently and how often you wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.
- Cardboard: Up to 24 hours.
- Plastic: Up to 72 hours (this includes credit cards and bank notes).
- Metal: Up to 72 hours.
- Fabric / clothes: From several hours to up to 24 hours.
- Money: Up to 4 hours on copper coins.
So what can you do to protect yourself? If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Additionally, you should clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wash them with soap and water. It’s also recommended to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
How do I stay safe at grocery store checkouts?
Heading out to do grocery shopping? “Card machines and self-checkouts are constantly being touched by people multiple times an hour,” says Dr Shaikh. “They can therefore host the virus on them for hours, alongside bank notes, credit cards and coins.”
How to stay safe: wear gloves, don’t touch your face and wash your hands afterwards. You could also make use of payment methods like Zapper and Snapscan when possible – these apps are free on Google Play and the iOs App Store. These methods are helpful as they minimise your physical contact with others; they also ensure a safe distance and minimal exchange of goods.
How do I stay safe after shopping once I’m home?
“On returning from the store, fresh fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly under running water,” says Dr Shaikh. “Any food packaging, such as cans, should be cleaned with disinfectant wipes or sprayed before storing. Any unnecessary packaging should be removed and disposed of into a bin. And while handling these items, it’s best to wear gloves and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.”
Does wearing glasses put me at more risk of contracting the virus?
It’s one of the rarer Covid-19 questions, but it’s important nonetheless. Think wearing spectacles can offer protection from the virus? Sadly, it could put you at higher risk.
“There is no scientific evidence that spectacles can offer protection against Covid-19 or other viral transmissions,” says optometrist Dr Clare O’Donnell.
“It is important to disinfect spectacles as some viruses such as Covid-19 can remain on hard surfaces for hours to days, which can be transferred to spectacles wearers’ fingers and faces. This especially holds true for people over the age of 40. Most people in this age group require reading glasses and they may be putting them on and off their face multiple times a day.”
Are smokers more likely to get infected?
Smokers are at an increased risk of infection, according to WHO. Why? Well it might be a bit more complicated than you think. The act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.
Moreover, smokers may also already have reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness. The WHO also notes that “conditions that increase oxygen needs [like smoking] will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.”
Smokers might be a bit more vulnerable to Covid-19, as it is a respiratory ailment. If possible, consider cutting down on your smoking and be sure to practise sustained hygiene practices. Like with anything, when in doubt, it’s always best to wash your hands.
Is it safe to open and send post?
Have a birthday coming up? If you’re sending post it’s advised that instead of licking the envelope, you use a wet sponge, warns Dr Shaikh.
“If you’re receiving envelopes or cardboard box deliveries, it’s best to leave them for at least 24 hours before opening. Wear gloves while handling and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.”
Reassuringly, the WHO notes that “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes Covid-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” Just be sure to take extra safety precautions and you’re good to go.
Can I catch Covid-19 from my pet?
The WHO has officially recorded one case of Covid-19 in a dog, but assures us that “there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit Covid-19.” There is new research being done daily and the WHO is committed to keeping abreast with the latest developments.
For now though, your pets shouldn’t be a huge concern. If you’d like a run-down on everything you need to know (so far) about Covid-19 and your pets, read more here. If you have any other Covid-19 questions related to your pets, be sure to contact your local vet.
Are there any medicines that can prevent or cure Covid-19?
To date, the WHO notes that there are currently no medicines that are seen to prevent or cure the virus. There are, however, western, traditional or home remedies that may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms.
It’s important that you do not self-medicate if you suspect you have the virus. Call ahead of time and go to your local GP. They can consult with you and prescribe medicine that won’t disrupt the functioning of any other medication you may be taking.
How do I guard against misinformation?
It is crucial that you keep up-to-date with any scams or hoaxes. For example, earlier this week it was rumoured that Bill Gates was in the process of developing a Covid-19 vaccine and testing it in Africa. This was later revealed to be untrue, but by that time, much of the world was in uproar. Don’t believe everything you read – now and always.
Consult reputable websites like WHO or the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) for any information or Covid-19 questions. Avoid getting updates or breaking news from social media or dingy, unknown websites. If you hear something that seems unlikely or potentially even too good to be sure, make sure you check it out on reputable sites.
Compiled by Features Writer Ashton Kirsten