Coronavirus is spread from person to person and is potentially deadly. Public Health England and the World Health Organization recommend washing your hands more often than usual. But it is also advised to avoid touching your face in public in case the virus is on your hands. So should you avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces in public to avoid contracting the virus?
Touchscreens are increasingly popular in modern life.
Many public services such as public transport, shops and banks regularly use these platforms as an integral part of operations.
Touchscreens often enable businesses to be more efficient and flexible.
But in recent weeks, there has been growing concern about the hygiene of public touchscreens.
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Research suggests coronavirus may stay alive on surfaces for up to two or three days on metal, glass and plastic surfaces.
Public touchscreens are used by a lot of people, and this means an infected person could leave traces of the virus on their surfaces.
It is possible they could then infect another person without them knowing.
The British Retail Consortium, which is the body representing retailers across the UK, has said retailers are increasing the number of deep cleans and advising customers to take precautions.
The BRC’s director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Retailers are continuing to adhere to high standards of hygiene in-store and are taking extra precautions as advised by Public Health England.
“Alongside this, we are urging everyone to follow Public Health England’s advice: wash hands frequently with hot water and soap for 20 seconds or use alcohol hand gel, and be aware of safe coughing etiquette.”
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Infectious disease epidemiologist Dr Tara Smith said touchscreens can spread the virus.
She said: “We see these touchscreens all over, airport kiosks, fast food restaurants, and of course supermarkets.
“Since so many people are touching them day in and day out, they’re a great place for viruses and bacteria to be deposited by infected individuals and be picked up by healthy ones, spreading the germ to new people.
“In addition to touch, germs can also be spread by people who are coughing or sneezing while using these and not covering their mouth.”
Dr Smith has called for companies to consider increasing the hygiene measures for these machines given how easily germs can spread.
A University of Southampton researcher Michael Head said avoiding touchscreens is not necessarily helpful.
He told The Independent: “Touchscreens are now in many places in UK society, so it’s often hard to avoid needing to use them.
“Various laboratory studies have shown it is certainly theoretically possible, viral loads are detected on the screens.
“The most practical advice is for people to make sure they are thoroughly washing and cleaning their hands several times a day, thus reducing the risks of transmission of any infection.”
If you are concerned about using touchscreens you should:
- Wash your hands before and after shopping
- Use alcohol hand gel
- Be aware of safe coughing etiquette
- Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, after using a public touchscreen
- Avoid leaving your home at all if you believe you may have coronavirus.
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