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Coronavirus: The ying and yang of a nation in the grip of virus

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, March 17

At time of writing the country has gone into a strange pre-apocalypse state of affairs with people stockpiling toilet rolls and hand gels.

Supermarkets shelves are emptying of goods with long sell-by dates and anything that kills germs.

Hand-washing is an important measure everyone can take to stop themselves catching coronavirus
Hand-washing is an important measure everyone can take to stop themselves catching coronavirus

But on the plus side, my most recent train journey was heavenly - there were seats for everyone and no one was eating on the train.

Sneezing and coughing was at a minimum and anyone who did let out a tiny cough instantly covered their mouths with a tissue and looked apologetic.

All of which makes me wonder whatever level of sanitary precautions we collectively took ahead of the Covid-19 virus.

Firstly, those toilet rolls. At the risk of conjuring up some unpleasant images, why do people suddenly need so much more toilet paper? What wasn’t happening before in their toiletry routine that is happening now?

Then there is all that hand washing advice. Just how bad were we at washing our hands that every public convenience now carries step by step instructions on leaving a toilet germ-free?

Of course, what this advice overlooks is the fact that after carefully washing our hands we are then forced to touch door handles as we leave the convenience.

And we are all expert enough now in the transmission of disease to know that hard surfaces are the biggest harbingers of germs.

Possibly one of the more ironic moments has been the ‘foot tapping’ which replaced the traditional hand shake ahead of the 6 Nations rugby matches.

The players walked past their opposition, either foot tapping or nodding. They then spent 80 minutes grappling with each other, touching sweaty bodies, raking their finger nails into skin and, in the case of England’s Joe Marler, grabbing Alun Wyn-Jones genitals.

But, among all the hype and hysteria, it is worth remembering these salient facts:

To be considered at high risk of catching coronavirus you need to live with, or have direct physical contact with, someone infected. Or you need to be coughed or sneezed on by an infected person.

If you are to be infected by a stranger then you need to have been in close proximity to them – two metres or less - for 15 minutes at least.

If that has been the case then it is fair to say you are not really strangers any more.

To return to the matter of hand-washing and hygiene. I really hope that a long-term legacy of Covid-19 is a new high when it comes to personal hygiene.

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