LET’S RESTART RESPONSIBLY: SOME STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO CONTAIN THE RISK OF A NEW SPREAD OF THE VIRUS
The world is trying to get back on its feet: to find a “new normal”. It’s what we’re all hoping for. However, in this new day-to-day routine, we must continue to be very careful at least for some time, behaving very cautiously in order to prevent and contain the risk of the virus flaring up and spreading again. Here are some steps, in addition to those we already know, that can help us, and others too.
Wash your hands and face as soon as you wake up – before breakfast
The alarm clock is ringing once again in the morning. It’s not as easy to ignore it now… After switching it off, some people leap out of bed, ready to face a brand new day, while others like to snuggle under the duvet for an extra 5 minutes. But we all instinctively rub our bleary eyes to get the sleep out of them. According to a study by the Washington University School of Medicine , in a sample of bed sheets analysed, some 18% tested positive for strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can cause a range of illnesses, so there is a considerable risk that our hands have a high bacterial load when we wake up in the morning. The best thing, therefore, is to avoid rubbing your eyes and instead wash your hands and face immediately.
 S.A. Fritz et all, Staphylococcus aureus Contamination of Environmental Surfaces in Households with Children infected with Methicillin-resistant S. aureus, JAMA Pediatr. 2014, 168:1030-1038
Everyone to the shower! An instant wake-up and great for eliminating germs
A shower is certainly quicker and more practical than a bath and is an excellent way to get each day off to an invigorating start. In addition to being “environmentally-friendly” as it saves water (a standard bathtub holds around 160 litres of water, while a 5-minute shower uses between 75 and 90), it’s also better for your health. According to a study by the Microbiology Department of Texas A&M University, bathtub water can become a breeding ground for various types of bacteria: in 95% of cases faecal bacteria, in 81% fungi and in 34% staphylococci, the most dangerous. So, while it’s fine to have a relaxing bath every now and again, for daily hygiene purposes a shower is better.
Leave the house without taking risks: simple precautions to take on public transport
Time has come to leave the house. If using public transport, it’s vital to follow social distancing rules (at least 1.80 metres according to the World Health Organisation) and any indications given by the transport company. According to the Italian National Institute of Health, a good way to prevent any respiratory infection is, in any case, to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially before touching your face, eyes or mouth.
A safe return to the workplace: disinfect work stations, computers and mobile phones
For many people, the time has come to return to the office, after several weeks of working from home. This means a reunion with modern-day workplace companions: computer, telephone and mobile phone. However, these essential tools aren’t always cleaned thoroughly. An American study reveals that these items are bona fide germ hotspots: a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per cm2, a keyboard 511 per cm² and the mouthpiece of a telephone a staggering 3,895! To counter any risk, simply clean your devices using wipes and an alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectant. But if the tools you use every day are crawling with bacteria, what can you expect to find lurking on the dreaded office toilet seat? A mere 8 bacteria per cm2!
In the office, it’s essential to continue practising social distancing between colleagues and – where that’s not possible – wear the recommended personal protection equipment. If a colleague sneezes, offer him/her a tissue – the comfortable, practical and hygienic choice backed by the World Health Organisation. However, in order to minimise any contact with mucus – a vehicle of further infection – it’s important to dispose of any tissues immediately after use, discarding them into a closed bin bag.
Wash your hands regularly, and mind how you dry them too: use paper towels where possible
As we all know by now, thorough and frequent hand-washing is especially important for containing the risk of infection. But not everyone knows that how you dry your hands is also very important for avoiding risk. Where possible, use disposable paper towels, as also stressed in some recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and some National Health Authorities in various countries. To maintain good hand hygiene after washing, it’s also a good idea to use a paper towel to turn the tap off and open the bathroom door.
Due to receive an e-commerce parcel delivery? Here’s how to take delivery of it
The day proceeds, when suddenly a “threat” arises: a courier delivering parcels from your favourite e-commerce website.
The information currently available suggests that the virus can survive on surfaces for several hours. As a precautionary measure, handle parcels using disposable latex gloves or – if none are available – paper tissues or napkins. N.B.: that’s not to suggest that contact with objects is a mode of transmission, as the World Health Organisation has stated that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating goods is low, and the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus from a parcel that has been moved, shipped and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.
The working day is over and it’s time to get the shopping. Here too, it’s vital to follow social distancing rules inside and outside the store, keeping a safe distance from fellow customers, sales and checkout staff. For optimum hygiene, the Italian National Institute of Health, recommends the use of disposable latex gloves when shopping. You should still take care to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth while wearing the gloves, and wash and dry your hands properly after use. On returning home, the advice from the National Institute of Health is to wash fruit and vegetables carefully, especially if you intend to eat them raw. Lastly, remember that fresh produce – if correctly handled – presents no higher risk of infection, and that the virus can survive on surfaces for some time – for example, on product packaging – although the primary mode of transmission remains respiratory droplets, which are emitted by people when they sneeze, cough, blow their nose or even simply while they speak.
Zero waste: reduce household waste and separate it correctly
And now, a recommendation on protecting the environment. Don’t let the “new normal” distract you from keeping up good habits, like sorting your waste correctly for separate collection – essential for waste recycling – and reducing the amount of household waste that you produce. To dispose of waste, sort items according to material, remove any food residue and squash containers to reduce their volume where possible, for example plastic bottles and aluminium cans. Keep track of the storage condition and expiry dates of food in your cupboards and reduce your meat consumption to no more than once a week, rediscovering the value of other foods, such as legumes.
The final rule: wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands is the simplest, quickest and certainly the most important way to combat the spread of infection. Here’s a reminder of the simple procedure to follow to wash them properly:
Always use soap, preferably liquid, as it slides better into all the corners and creases.
Apply soap to both palms and rub palm to palm and then the backs of your hands thoroughly for at least 40-60 seconds, also remembering the skin creases at joints, in between your fingers, your fingertips and under your nails where germs can linger more easily.
Rinse hands well under running water, strictly warm or hot, to wash off all traces of soap and dirt.
Dry your hands properly. So as not to defeat your good work, use a clean towel or, better still, a disposable paper towel.
And lastly… the overarching rule: act responsibly
This is the overarching rule. The most general rule of all. The most useful to bear in mind. The rule that substantiates and covers our every action: to act responsibly. All the more so when what’s at stake is human health, a primary asset which we are all duty-bound as individuals and citizens to promote and protect. So, we must do our utmost to get the world moving again in the best way possible. To pick up our relationships and activities where we left off. To rebuild or – if necessary – build again, with drive and courage. But all the while keeping our guard up, acting intelligently and with common sense, knowing that all of us can – and indeed must – endeavour to be part of the solution.