• Deliveries should be left in the porch or on the doorstep and drivers step back

    COVID-19 Hygiene Tips: deliveries and post (4)

    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.


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  • Val Knight says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 9:54 am

    Oh…how I wish I had found & read your article days ago! I’m doing my best but tend to live in a world of my own. Your Article is a strong wake up call for me. Thank you. I receive Doorstep Deliveries. In my last Delivery was a Red Pepper. I thoroughly washed the Red Pepper in cold water & dried it off in a Paper Towel. Later I ate some of that Red Pepper raw with my Supper. Suggestions please. Will I be alright? Hope so….Single lady…73yrs

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Hi, Val, sounds like you will be fine with the red pepper as you washed it and rubbed it dry. We can’t get zero risk, we can just do our best. If concerned in future, just put items in a separate place in the fridge, pantry or cold room for 72 hours and then use them. If you cook with it, then of course there is no need to wait. After handling deliveries, wash your hands. Keep safe, Lisa

  • Phil Wilkinson says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 10:01 am

    Will washing with hot, soapy water and a good rinsing work on chilled and frozen foods?

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Yes it would, although not so good for cardboard! You can also just separate the foods into a sort of “self isolation” in the fridge or freezer of 72 hours. I use a dilute bleach spray on the outer packaging and leave for a few minutes before putting away.Keep safe, and hope that helps.

  • Jo Ewen says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 11:27 am

    Please advise re payment to voluntary helpers. I wondered about electronic transfer but not everyone can do this.
    Your advice confirms what I have been doing so far. Great blog. Thank you

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Jo, this is a very good point. I am advising people to put money in an envelope for the helper with a label on it to say it is yours, and how much is in there. They can then put the change back in the envelope and give it to you with the shopping. If you leave it for 72 hours then you can handle it safely. Hope that helps, and keep safe.

  • Monica Lunn says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 11:31 am

    Good morning Lisa, I heard you on the radio this morning so have sat down to read your blog.
    I am 80, live alone, family are 200 miles away and although I am self isolating I have great neighbourly support. I have mastered the art of online grocery shopping and look forward to a delivery next Saturday. I am pleased to see that I am already following your very handy tips. However, one question in relation to unpacking groceries:

    I have been wiping items for the freezer with wipes but not sure whether I should be using separate wipes for each item or whether one or two will suffice. Any comments would be welcome.

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Monica, you should be fine carrying on as you are, don’t waste them – very often they have lots of chemical on them. One or two will be fine. Good luck, and I hope you can keep safe, and not too lonely.

  • Oliver Murphy says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 11:55 am

    All very helpful but what does one do with unwrapped loose fresh items that need to be refrigerated especially once we reach warmer weather? Should these simply be wasted under running cold water of disinfected or otherwise soap washed?

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:25 pm

      Hi if they may go off in 72 hours, you can wash by rubbing under running water, dry with paper towel. Or put in a separate place in the fridge for 72 hours. Nothing is zero risk but these are things we can do to try to reduce risks.

  • Ruth Cameron says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 12:20 pm

    A further question: For chilled and frozen food, does being in the fridge or freezer kill any virus on the packaging? And is the 72-hour span still in effect?

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:32 pm

      Hi cold will not kill the virus, but time is our friend. After 72 hours, the government suggests that there is a substantial reduction, and recently there are suggestions that it may be 24-48 hours, but I would rather have belt and braces. If concerned, you can wipe the outer packaging of shopping with a disinfectant wipe or a diluted bleach solution on a paper towel. Wash your hands after putting away.

  • Marian Addison says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 12:24 pm

    I am very interested in the comments about food shopping deliveries, which I shall follow to the letter. ( over 70 ). We see volunteers on television delivering shopping to people, and the recipient picks it straight up from the doorstep and takes it into the house. Could this be giving viewers the wrong message? We need precise information on television about how to deal with this situation. Not everyone ( particularly over 70 ) can access social media.

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 12:50 pm

      Hi we are trying to also spread these messages via the newspapers and radio, as I do realise not everyone gets on-line or on social media. Sometimes it takes a while for the ideas on hygiene measures to filter through! With my colleagues we are doing our best, but very much in the hands of the media what they show on TV! Hope you keep safe, Lisa

  • John Weston says:Reply
    29th March 2020 at 5:10 pm

    What about ironing mail and newspapers

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      29th March 2020 at 7:10 pm

      Hi that is what butlers used to do for rich folk! Not a bad idea, so long as you don’t set fire to anything. The heat would kill it. Alternatively just remove the envelope and wash your hands, or take to top page off and slip the newspaper out and wash your hands.

  • Margaret Chung says:Reply
    30th March 2020 at 1:25 pm

    Simple and effective. Thank you.

  • Anji says:Reply
    30th March 2020 at 4:13 pm

    What about giving envelopes, parcels etc a quick blast with my electric paint stripper (like a very hot hairdryer)?

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      31st March 2020 at 4:53 pm

      Well you may set fire to them! I Would just empty them outside, slide the inside contents out carefully and then dispose of the outer bit, wash your hands and get the inside bits! all the best, Lisa

  • Terry Hopkins says:Reply
    1st April 2020 at 11:10 am

    “Putting Away Food Shopping”
    Hello Lisa and thank you for providing all of the very useful information about COVID-19 in your blog. You are no doubt inundated with queries, I therefore don’t expect a quick answer to mine.
    Last Sunday Professor Bloomfield was interviewed on BBC’s ‘Broadcasting House’ programme. On the subject of perishable groceries, e.g. a bottle of milk, she advised running it under the kitchen tap to wash away any possible viruses. She made no mention of using soap. I have some questions about this:
    1. Is this really an adequate measure for eliminating viruses?
    2. If so, why do we need to wash our hands with soap?
    3. Does the water need to be warm?
    4. Can I assume that it’s okay to do this with all packaged food?
    5. On a slightly different subject: is it safe to eat raw food that is inside packaging, e.g. fruit, vegetables, salad? Not knowing the medical situation of those who have packed these items, I have been quarantining them for 72 hours before consuming them.
    Thank you again!
    Terry Hopkins
    Twyford, Winchester

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      2nd April 2020 at 4:07 pm

      Hi thanks for contacting me. I have discussed with Sally and I think we would now advise using a disinfectant on foods that need to be packed away immediately, such as fresh food. When washing our hands the soap encourages rubbing, and there is some evidence that it may deactivate the virus as well, although nothing has been established for sure. The water can be whatever temperature is comfortable as it is the soap and rubbing and rinsing that counts. On foods that have an outer packaging, then you can remove this carefully, dispose of it and then wash your hands. It is likely that the food will have been in the food chain for some time before you receive it so that inside the packs, it should be fine. Also many items will have been picked and packed by automation. I just leave my non-perishables to themselves for 72 hours but if in a hurry, then I will disinfect an item. It may seem over the top, but that is what I do. Hope that helps, and also see my 10th blog in the series about shopping as well. Keep safe, Lisa

  • Joanna says:Reply
    4th April 2020 at 2:50 pm

    I don’t use bleach or disinfectant wipes but I do have Dettol surface cleanser in a spray. Is that safe to use on packaged food/milk cartons and loose fruit and veg?

    Re newspapers. What about down the right hand side where you turn all the pages? Won’t the delivery person have touched those in the process of getting it through the letterbox? My husband puts the paper outside for a few hours and insists the UV rays kill the virus. Is he right? I am “highly vulnerable “ and it is hard not to feel paranoid.

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      16th April 2020 at 6:34 pm

      Hi the Dettol spray would be good as it has been shown to be ok against flu viruses. For the newspaper the risk is very very low on the sides of the paper, as it may not have been touched very much. I just take the top layer off if I am in a hurry to read it but I also find the things I like best in a newspaper such as the puzzles and general articles can wait 72 hours – in fact that reminds me, I have Monday’s newspaper lying on the porch floor (Thursday night)!

  • Terry says:Reply
    7th April 2020 at 9:54 am

    Many thanks Lisa for your comprehensive reply to my questions. All is clear and we are proceeding as you suggest. Kind regards, Terry

  • John says:Reply
    7th April 2020 at 1:37 pm

    You say “Empty the bags onto your worktop or table to sort them” – don’t forget to clean the worktop surface afterwards !

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      16th April 2020 at 6:34 pm

      Definitely – thanks I will add this!

  • Tricia Munro says:Reply
    7th April 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Question – what can be used as a disinfectant spray that will kill the virus when wiping perishable items of packaging? Anti bacterial sprays and wipes presumably don’t kill the virus. If a bleach solution what is the ratio?
    Question – What to do with packaged items such as salad items? When you have disinfected the package can you eat the item after just washing it in cold water or should you wait 72 hours?

  • Kevin says:Reply
    8th April 2020 at 11:35 am

    I have been doing most of this but would welcome advice on how to manage food like fresh vegetables. I understand that vegetables that will be cooked will be ok because heating them over 70 degrees will kill the virus but if they are loose should they be washed with soap or disinfected before putting them in the fridge? Also what about lettuce and other things that are eaten without cooking? Finally I wonder if it is safe to assume stuff in the fridge is ok after 72 hours, surely the virus will take longer to “die” in a fridge?

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      11th April 2020 at 11:55 am

      Hello Kevin, I have just had this conversation with my mum, and I think the best thing to do is have a place in the fridge for your veg that will be cooked at a later date. This is actually good practice anyway because items such as potatoes and leeks etc could carry harmful bacteria anyway, such as E. coli. So when you prepare them, assume them to be “dirty” and after they have gone in the cooking pot, clean and disinfect the preparation area and utensils (they can go in the dishwasher if you have one) and then wash your hands. It is always a good idea to give any handles a wipe down with disinfectant afterwards as well. Things you eat without cooking should be washed anyway, so rinse salads under running water and spin or pat dry. There is a low risk with food, but you should do this anyway to remove any bacteria. Hope that helps, Lisa

  • Terry Hopkins says:Reply
    14th April 2020 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    In his recent post, Kevin wrote about cooking vegetables: “heating them over 70 degrees will kill the virus”. If I have a loaf of unsliced and unpackaged bread delivered, and I stick it in a 100 degree oven for five minutes, is it safe to eat without putting it in quarantine? Many thanks.

    • Dr Lisa Ackerley says:Reply
      16th April 2020 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Terry, sorry your loaf may be stale by now as it has taken a few days to reply. I think your suggestion sounds very sensible. I haven’t had any unwrapped bread for a while, but I would follow that approach too. If the outside surface reaches over 60 degrees, that would work well. Hope you keep safe, all the best, Lisa