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COVID-19

Social distancing and washing hands

Social distancing and washing handsCoronavirus spreads in a similar way to flu or the common cold, enlarged droplets produced by coughs and sneezes from an infected person. People within 6 feet of an infected individual are most at risk for inhaling these droplets. Public health England defines having close contact with a virus carrier as being within 2 metres (6 feet) of the person for 15 minutes.

Coronavirus social distancing advice: what two metres looks like | BBC News | 29 Mar 2020 | 1m 48s

People who might have coronavirus should adopt the "catch it, bin it, kill it" approach. This means catching sneezes and coughs in tissues, throwing them away, and then washing your hands thoroughly. Regular hand washing is considered the most important proportion to reduce the chances of picking up the virus from surfaces.

The New England Journal of Medicine has published a study that tested how long the virus can remain stable on different kinds of surfaces within a controlled laboratory setting. They found that it was still detectable on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours.

Learn about hand hygiene and preventing the spread of viruses like Coronavirus | HSE Ireland | 14 Feb 2020 | 1m 14s

COVID-19: How long does the coronavirus last on surfaces? | BBC Future | 17 Mar 2020

According to the NHS washing your hands means:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get back home
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

There's been some debate as to whether coronavirus is airborne or not but there is no evidence that this is the case, though it could change.

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