Coronavirus: From home hygiene, to schools, food and friends, all the essential ...

Does handwashing really work?

Yes. A new study published by the highly-respected Cochrane Database which summarises and interprets numerous studies says that handwashing cuts the chances of contracting a respiratory illness such as coronavirus by 54 per cent – the best odds of any deterrent.

So wash your hands – scrubbing every bit of skin from your wrist downwards – at every opportunity for at least 20 seconds (or for however long it takes to sing Happy Birthday in your head twice).

Family and friends can easily bring in the virus. To reduce this threat, institute a handwashing rule for everyone as soon as they enter the house. And make sure there is one hand towel for each person

Family and friends can easily bring in the virus. To reduce this threat, institute a handwashing rule for everyone as soon as they enter the house. And make sure there is one hand towel for each person

Should I use public transport?

Only if necessary. If you can work from home rather than commuting, and also minimise shopping trips, you will greatly reduce your infection risk.

One recent study in Nottingham found that people who contracted the flu virus in 2011 were nearly six times more likely than others to have travelled by public transport in the five days before developing symptoms.

Planes, trains and buses are high-risk environments for easily transmitted viruses – and Covid-19 is particularly infectious – to spread on to our hands via surfaces such as handrails, seats and handles.

Some commuters are turning to extravagant face masks which the World Health Organisation suggests can protect others if you are coughing and spluttering.

But if you’re more concerned about your own welfare, keep your hands in your pockets whenever possible and try to travel at off-peak times.

If you can work from home rather than commuting, and also minimise shopping trips, you will greatly reduce your infection risk

If I stay at home, will I be safe?

No. Family and friends can easily bring in the virus. To reduce this threat, institute a handwashing rule for everyone as soon as they enter the house. 

And make sure there is one hand towel for each person. If that’s not practicable, wash towels frequently.

How should I greet a friend?

Kissing somebody on the cheek is, as the French government is warning, a one-way ticket to speeding up viral transmission. As to kissing on the mouth... just say no!

According to GP and health commentator Dr Rosemary Leonard, we should ‘stop shaking hands’ too.

Perhaps that’s why Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer waved away Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand at a meeting yesterday.

The safest way to greet someone is to simply say: ‘Hello.’ 

But if that’s not enough, recent tests by Aberystwyth University show that fist-bumping transfers only a tenth of the bacteria that a handshake transmits.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer refuses shaking hand with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Integration Summit at Prime Ministry building in Berlin, Germany on March 02, 2020

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer refuses shaking hand with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Integration Summit at Prime Ministry building in Berlin, Germany on March 02, 2020

Do I need to change the way I wash my clothes?

According to the NHS all underwear, towels and household linen should be washed at 60C or 40C with a bleach-based laundry product to prevent microbes spreading.

There’s no point adding more detergent, as modern machines are programmed to break up and wash away surplus cleaning agent.

Using a dryer on high heat for more than 28 minutes can also kill harmful micro-organisms – though you could also hang up your washing outdoors in direct sunlight, which has disinfecting properties.

Always remember to wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.

Should I stockpile food?

There's no need to hoard for a nuclear winter, but it might be wise to have some long-lasting foods in the larder.

Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland, Australia, has suggested buying cereals, grains, beans, lentils, pasta, tinned fish, vegetables, fruit, oil, dried fruit, nuts, powdered milk and a few sweet treats.

This will also cut your number of shopping trips – thus reducing your risk of exposure – and could be useful in the unlikely event that your town or city is put into lockdown.

(If you rely on online supermarket delivery, be sure to order your items well in advance. Online supermarket Ocado is warning that some customers are buying ‘particularly large orders’ and ‘delivery slots are selling out quicker than expected’.

A woman with a face mask stands near empty stalls in a supermarket in the Qwartz shopping centre in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, north of Paris, on March 2, 2020. - Supermarket shelves in countries affected by the COVID-19 virus have been emptied of basic necessities, such as pasta and toilet paper, in recent days but there is no shortage so far

A woman with a face mask stands near empty stalls in a supermarket in the Qwartz shopping centre in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, north of Paris, on March 2, 2020. - Supermarket shelves in countries affected by the COVID-19 virus have been emptied of basic necessities, such as pasta and toilet paper, in recent days but there is no shortage so far

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