Friday, February 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Coronavirus: Staying Safe and Avoiding Misinformation

We’re all incredibly scared about the coronavirus right now. Nothing like this has ever happened in our lifetimes, and no one quite knows what to do. It’s important to keep yourself informed about what you can do to contain coronavirus as effectively as possible.

Unfortunately, when anything bad happens on this large a scale, people have a tendency to panic. And with panic comes the spread of misinformation. So here’s a small, informed guide on how to keep from catching coronavirus, who is most vulnerable, and what to do if you catch it.

Coronavirus is, of course, very contagious, but that doesn’t mean you can immediately catch it simply from being outside. There’s very little evidence to suggest that it is airborne, and the research that does acknowledges that it’s under very specific, very limited circumstances. The main way the virus spreads it through surfaces that people have touched or sneezed / coughed around. As such, the recommendation from the NHS and WHO is to simply wash your hands with soap and water on a regular basis for 20 seconds each time (especially when you get home), or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if that isn’t an option.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that hand sanitiser is more effective at removing germs than regular soap and water, so where possible, you should reserve hand sanitiser for when there’s no opportunity to wash your hands. Buying sanitiser in bulk only serves to take it away from people who don’t have easy access to soap and water, which increases the speed of its spread. Face masks are also not essential purchases, as it is unlikely that the virus can survive in the air alone. The only real risk is if someone coughs or sneezes near you, and again, the only thing that buying in bulk does is take them away from the people who need it the most.

It is important to know what contributes the most to the spread of coronavirus, and what to be aware of. The highest contributing factors are;
– Person-to-person contact; where possible, try to stay at least three feet away from other people, particularly if they display any symptoms of the virus (coughing, sneezing, etc).
– Surfaces; the virus can last on surfaces for anywhere between three hours and three days, depending on the temperature and material type. Clean and disinfect any surfaces you use on a regular basis.
– Coins; the virus sticks to metallic surfaces for longer than other materials, and coins tend to get around. Try to avoid cash payments and stick to contactless.

Who is most at risk? COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, affects the lungs and respiratory system in a similar way to the common cold or flu. The biggest differences are, of course, that it’s more contagious and more dangerous for certain people. The affect it has on a person depends on their immune system, so generally the younger someone is, the less they’ll be affected by the illness. People with worse immune systems, such as the elderly or the recently ill, are the most at risk, especially if they have conditions involving the lungs or airways (such as asthma). Another contributing factor, particularly in younger people, is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin and diclofenac. If possible, paracetamol should be used.

Generally, if you a) aren’t elderly, b) in moderately good health, and c) don’t have pre-existing health or respiratory problems, the virus will likely affect you as much as your average cold or flu. As such, it is actually more beneficial NOT to bulk buy hand sanitiser, toilet roll, face masks, etc, because it means that the people who really need them (i.e. the people that might die if they catch it) have access to them.

While vaccines are currently in development, there aren’t any real treatments for COVID-19. If you start developing symptoms, the best thing you can do is self-isolate as soon as possible. You should isolate for seven days, as this give you time to recover and for the virus to die on any surface you’ve touched. If you live with other people, it’s recommended that you all stay quarantined for fourteen days, just to be on the safe side.

Of course, fourteen days is a long time to spend exclusively at home, and the temptation to bulk buy is tempting. However, it is only necessary to buy in bulk if you’ve started to show symptoms. Think about how much toilet paper you use in two weeks; that’s all you need for your quarantine, and leaving some for other people who need to isolate is necessary to slow the virus down. Certain supermarkets will soon be offering delivery services that allow quarantined people to buy food without interacting with people, so bulk buying won’t even be necessary soon (as long as the staff are made aware that you are infected).

This is obviously an unprecedented situation, and that scares people. But the best thing we can do to stay safe is to be vigilant, remain informed, take good care of ourselves and consider the needs of the people around us. To be cautious, but not selfish. If we can maintain this balance, and do our research, then we can get through this awful event with minimal casualties.

Below are the links to the websites I used for this research;