COMMENT

The country is on lockdown and the only place most of us will be going to relieve our cabin fever is the supermarket. We all need food and nothing gives a sense of normalcy like a stroll down the cereal aisle. However, as we are all trying to keep ourselves safe and stop any further transmission of Covid-19, what should we be thinking about before we head out?

The answer is "anything we touch", and that starts with the shopping trolley. If you are able to wipe down the handle surface of your trolley or basket with soapy water or sanitiser before you touch it then that will minimise your risk. While some supermarkets may provide that facility on-site, keeping a damp, soapy paper towel in a sandwich bag on your shopping trips will give you more confidence that the surfaces you are touching are safer.

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Research suggests that the virus can exist on cardboard food packaging for about a day, and on plastic and metals for up to three days. The safest thing to do to protect yourself is to assume that an infected person has been into the supermarket before you and coughed on everything in store. While this is (thankfully) unlikely, it should hopefully put you in the mindset that a supermarket shop needs to be taken seriously.

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After the trolley, the next high-risk area is the fruit and vegetable section. We are all guilty of picking up fruit and squeezing it to see if it's ripe and, if it's not, putting it back in the pile again. With each touch from every customer before you comes an increased risk of transfer of the virus to the produce that you might select to eat. While the thought of the virus being on our hands might make us uneasy, be reassured that it can't infect us from there. To get into our bodies we have to physically bring the virus to our eyes, nose or mouth. It is only from this contact that the virus can enter our body. This can happen if we bring our hands up to our face, or in the case of fruit and vegetables if we eat produce that an infected person has touched and then put back down. Before eating the fruit or vegetable, the best thing to do to reduce the risk is to wash it in soapy water just like you would your hands as soon as you bring it home. Don't forget to rinse in clean water so that they don't taste soapy!

There have been many posts online that say rinsing your food in vinegar is a good way to kill the virus. There is no scientific evidence to show vinegar has any effect on coronavirus. Fruit and vegetable washing should take place even if you are planning on cooking your vegetables, as research shows it takes 30 minutes and sustained temperatures of 56C or more to destroy the virus.

Finally, don't forget to pack your kindness along with your bags. Supermarket workers will be putting their own health at risk to help us maintain our basic needs. Help to protect them by keeping a 2m distance as much as possible and not picking up and putting down items in store that you aren't going to buy. If you can, try to replace your cash transactions with non-contact card payments for the lockdown period and make sure your reusable bags have been washed in soapy water before you use them.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website