Coronavirus: how to reduce your risk in shops, schools and on public transport

As schools return and restrictions ease, we’re often asked how we can protect ourselves and our kids from the coronavirus while at school, the shops and even on our daily walks.

Here are some safety guidelines when out of your home:

While shopping

  • Stay at least 6 feet away (1.82m) from others while shopping and in lines.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you have to go out in public.
  • When you do have to visit in person, go during hours when fewer people will be there (for example, early morning or late evening).
  • Disinfect the shopping cart, and use disinfecting wipes if available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitiser right after paying.
  • After leaving the store, use hand sanitiser.
  • When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
(via Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))

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On public transport

  • Try to use public transport only when necessary. Wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitiser are vital. Try to avoid taxis, buses or train carriages that are full. And if your mode of transport is becoming full, kick up a fuss. It’s impossible to keep 1.5 metres away from people on taxis, but at the same time taxi drivers need to follow regulations about the number of passengers they are allowed to carry.
  • It’s best to travel with windows open to increase air exchanges and therefore dilute the amount of potential virus droplets inside the vehicle. That isn’t easy as we enter winter.
  • Sanitise your hands after receiving money. Avoid chatting to others when in public transport and any over-crowded place, as virus contaminated droplets are released even when talking.
  • Transport owners or managers should wash interiors at least twice a day (standard cleaning products are fine).
  • As with supermarkets, no customers or staff should be sprayed with disinfectants, but all customers should be offered a dash of hand sanitiser upon entering a taxi, bus or train carriage.

Protect your family from coronavirus

At school

  • While people of school-going age are much less likely to become very ill from Covid-19, it’s equally important to focus on key aspects of prevention to reduce transmission between their peers, teachers, and family members.
  • Planning is needed to reduce risk across the school: classrooms, staff rooms, food preparation, eating areas, change rooms, toilets etc. Universal masking should be standard especially for children older than five years. Facilities should be made available to perform regular hand hygiene. Regularly used surfaces should be disinfected often, including computer mice, keyboards, door and locker handles, etc.
  • Staff members should probably have their own blackboard dusters and chalk. Teachers should avoid gathering for tea and lunch breaks, as they are more likely to infect each other than to be infected by a child. Staff meetings should ideally be held in the open area, while maintaining social distancing.
  • Also, teachers should maintain distance from the learners wherever possible. Although this might be more challenging for early childhood development and special needs schools, if teachers wear a face mask or visor and do regular hand hygiene they will reduce the risk of infecting children.
  • Many schools are overcrowded. As learners return it may be a good idea to split them into groups that come to school every alternate week. This may mean reducing the syllabus this year, but that’s not a catastrophe. Minimise non-essential activities where social distancing isn’t possible.
  • On the very first day that learners return, ensure that every single one of them is taught about Covid-19 in an age-appropriate manner, as well as the prevention measures that they must take. Explain the reasons behind what we are asking learners to do. But also re-assure them that children are fortunate because they rarely develop a severe illness even when infected with this virus that is so troublesome to older adults.
  • Disinfection tunnels should not be used, nor should large-scale environmental spraying of communal areas. It’s also unnecessary to close the school every time a learner or staff member tests positive. The same advice for supermarkets applies when this happens.
  • Also, teenagers will be teenagers; it’s pointless and cruel to stop them from playing games like soccer, and the usual things that teenagers do. The idea is to advise them on the need to minimise physical contact; not eradicate it and destroy the fun of childhood.

READ MORE More tips on how to prepare your child to return to school during the coronavirus

Sticking to all this advice 100% of the time is impossible. But the more diligently we all apply these measures the more we reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 and infecting others.

Public transport and school info, via Marc Mendelson, Shaheen Mehtar, Shabir Madhi and Nathan Geffen, GroundUp