T Jacob John, former head of the Indian Council for Medical Research’s Centre for Advanced Research in Virology, says only those fruits and vegetables that have thicker, less permeable or useless skin should be dipped in soapy water for 20 to 30 seconds and then rinsed thoroughly. “Keeping these items untouched for 12 hours is also enough to kill viable viruses,” he adds.
Couriers and packages
Metal, plastic and cardboard are some commonly used surfaces on which the virus can thrive (though the CDCP report now contradicts this). Such items, Jameel says, “can be sprayed with a solution of a bleach. Regular fabric bleach diluted with water (1:100) is sufficient to clean such surfaces.” This solution can be used on packaged groceries like packets of sugar, salt, pulses as also on bottles and cans. John’s rule of thumb for dealing with couriers and packages is keeping them untouched for 12 hours. “Make sure you sanitise your hands after you touch these packages.” he says.
Newspapers and currency notes
“Yes, the virus can spread from glazed newspapers as even the hawkers who distribute it often use their saliva to turn the pages. This is very dangerous. The same goes for currency notes,” says Singh. Jameel, too, is careful about touching newspapers and prefers to use a tong to pick them up. For both newspapers and currency notes, he suggests using a dry-iron. The heat applied to these objects would be enough to kill any virus on the surface. He warns against microwaving newspapers as that may lead to problems with the microwave. Coins should be washed thoroughly as they are metallic.
One might think getting clothes ironed by the local dhobi is dangerous, but Singh points out that it is actually the dhobi who is at a greater risk of contracting the virus from various households. “If clothes are washed and then sent for ironing, it is fine. But refrain from getting your clothes washed by a dhobi.” The ironed clothes are not a problem as the heat would’ve killed the virus. The cloth in which these clothes are wrapped can remain untouched for a couple of hours, preferably under sunlight. Those using dry-cleaning services do not have to worry about their clothes being contaminated, but they should definitely clean the plastic cover and the hanger on which they are delivered.
Singh says the risk of bringing the virus home on your shoes is high as the reach of these virus droplets is about one to one-and-a-half metres. What if you have stepped on a surface on which an infected person has spat or coughed, says Jameel. Though washing your hands after removing your shoes should do, if there are vulnerable people in the house (for instance, the elderly), shoes must be kept away from common areas.
How much is too much?
All three experts agree that wearing gloves as an extra layer of protection only adds to a false sense of security. “The chances of contracting the virus remain the same if one does not wear gloves,” says Jameel. In fact, they believe people are more cautious of maintaining good hand hygiene, which is currently the need of the hour, when they are not wearing gloves. “There is nothing better than washing your hands with soap and water. Even sanitisers should be the second option,” reaffirms Singh.
John and Jameel also stress the importance of using commonsensical measures like wearing masks, social distancing (since the virus spreads mainly through close contact, which is within about six feet) and handwashing as the best ways to keep the virus at bay.
With gradual lifting of restrictions, regular life is bound to resume. And so the experts suggest incorporating the habit of regularly disinfecting doorknobs, doorbells and handles with either a sanitiser, detergent or bleach. Finally, the golden rule: Don’t touch your mouth, eyes and nose.