Government guidance on staying at home, social distancing and shielding very vulnerable people is being updated daily, so even if you have read it once, check again to stay safe. Furthermore, there are now more requirements for us all to simply stay at home. These blogs are written to help you follow the advice by giving some simple and practical tips about commonly asked questions on how to bust the journey of the germ.
Some people may think some of my suggestions may be excessive, but we are in a critical situation, and over the top hygiene is becoming the new normal, because that and social distancing is what we need to do.
These are things I do now.
We can never reduce risk to zero, but we can take some simple measures to reduce the risks.
Q. Is it safe to handle deliveries, post and newspapers?
I have been asked this question many times. Unlike many bacteria, viruses do not grow outside the body, but can survive on surfaces. Current Public Health England advice is that under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours, and even more so by 48 hours, although 72 hours are also mentioned in some documents. It depends on the surface, sunlight and other factors. Personally I would rather play safe and assume 72 hours for everything.
We also know that seemingly well people may be carrying the virus for some time, possibly up to 14 days before they get symptoms of illness which means that they could contaminate surfaces in the meantime.
Keeping 2m or 6ft away from others is also an important means of reducing risk, and this is relevant in relation to deliveries.
Ringing the bell and stepping back
More and more of us will be organising for deliveries to our doors because of our new circumstance and the need to reduce social contact. New rules forbid us to go shopping unless for essential items such as food or medicines, or because we are self-isolating due to illness in the household. Furthermore, very vulnerable people have been instructed not to leave their homes for 12 weeks.
It may be that friends, neighbours and family are bringing supplies for us too.
In any case, home deliveries reduce the risks and anxiety of keeping hands clean and off the face for several hours, as a shopping trip could involve touching many items such as parking ticket buttons, chip and pin machines and pedestrian crossing buttons.
I have put a note on the front door to ask people to ring the bell and leave the delivery in the porch. I don’t need to sign for it. Many delivery companies have already sent out notices to say this is what they will do to protect their staff as much as the customers. Nowadays most will not ask for a signature, so avoid signing anything if you can, but if you do, wash your hands afterwards.
If you don’t have a porch, then they will ring the bell, step back and wait for you to collect the parcel, then depart. This makes total sense for EVERYONE to do – even if you know the person who is delivering and even if they are family.
If you are expecting a food delivery, get it in bags not in the crates, to avoid the delivery driver having to stand around whilst you unpack. Most supermarkets are doing this automatically now.
Planning in these times is useful – if you haven’t seen a policy from the delivery company, explain on the notes section of the on-line order that you would like to have no contact with the driver. If friends are dropping something off for you, make a plan beforehand of how this is going to work so you are not dithering on the doorstep!
What to do with the delivery next?
You may be concerned that there may be contamination on your deliveries – even people who look well people can be carrying the disease. Even your friends and family. The risks are likely to be very low, but there are simple measures to reduce them.
If I get a delivery that is non perishable and non essential, I just put it in an isolated place such as my shed and leave it for 72 hours and wash my hands after moving it. You could put in on the floor if you have a spare room, or anywhere which is safe and no-one will touch it. If you live with lots of people you may want to put a note on it. This will reduce the amount of virus if there is any on the packaging. After 72 hours, remove the external packaging or bags and dispose of these in general rubbish or recycling and then wash your hands.
If you need the items sooner than that or they are perishable, then you need to deal with them straight away so you need a plan.
If the parcel has external packaging, such as a letter in an envelope or a cardboard box, the risk is probably low, but you may want to open the envelope or pack, slide it out of the outer packaging onto the floor or outside, and put the packaging or envelope in the bin/recycling and wash your hands before picking up the inner papers or items. Disinfect any surfaces you may have touched before washing your hands such as the door handles and taps.
I don’t think it is necessary, but if you feel anxious and want to take more precautions, you could take the item to a place where you can easily clean and disinfect and spray the outer packaging with disinfectant (you could do this in your garden, in the garage or on the kitchen floor). You can use a disinfecting bleach solution if you can’t get your normal household sanitiser. Wash your hands, leave the parcel for a few minutes, then unpack the outer packaging, put in the bins /recycling and wash your hands again. Disinfect any hand contact surfaces you may have touched with dirty hands.
Putting away food shopping
People ask me what do I do, and so here it is. If you think this is over the top, fine, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Ask the person shopping for you to put all cupboard items (things that have a long shelf life and don’t need to go in the fridge) into a separate bag. These can be left to one side for 72 hours to reduce the amount of things you have to disinfect. Whole fruits such as bananas or apples could also have this treatment.
You must deal with perishable chilled or frozen items straight away as they need to go in the fridge or freezer.
Before you unpack, have a plan
Disinfect the shopping bag handles when they arrive at your doorstep – that saves you getting contaminated hands. If you don’t do this, simply wash your hands after handling the bags.
Get your disinfectant out ready and any paper towel you may use (or clean cloth / rag).
Have ready a cleared space or table for sorting and cleaning the shopping which you could later disinfect. If you have a utility room this could be a good place, but make sure dirty laundry is out of the way (another blog to come).
Empty the bags onto your worktop or table to sort them. Have a place to put the shopping bags to one side (they will be ok to re-use after 3 days). Wash your hands.
For chilled and frozen foods that you need to put away, wipe down each item with a disinfecting wipe (or spray disinfectant on a piece of kitchen roll).
Wash your hands.
Then handle the cleaned food packets and put away in your fridge / freezer.
Disinfect the work surface where you have unpacked the shopping, and and surfaces or handles (e.g. the fridge handle).
Track back and disinfect anything you may have touched on the way, or that the delivery driver may have touched, including both sides of the front door handle.
Q. What about my newspaper delivery?
For many people, our newspaper is not just about news, it is a source of entertainment and we certainly need that at the moment.
The outer pages may be contaminated from others touching them. It is probably a low risk, but if you want to know what I do – here it is. I rarely read the front page because most of it is on the TV the night before, so I put the outer page to one side for 3 days if it looks interesting, otherwise I put it straight in the recycling.
Just slide it off, don’t touch the inside bit till you have washed your hands.