Coronavirus (COVID-19): People are allowed to shop for essentials during the lockdown, but going out to buy groceries comes with a degree of risk. The risk depends on the precautions you take, as well as the safety measures that the store has in place.
The usual precautions anywhere else apply at the store, too. Maintain a reasonable distance — one metre at least, and preferably six feet — from other shoppers. Wear a face cover, given that the new recommendation worldwide is to keep the mouth and nostrils covered. There is no recommendation to wear gloves, however.
Although many stores provide visitors with a hand sanitiser, it is best to take your own along. Use the hand sanitiser when you leave the store and, of course, wash your hands when you reach home. Wash them again after unpacking your purchases. The same method of recommended handwashing applies — use soap and water, or a sanitiser with 60%-70% alcohol content — for at least 20 seconds.
Given that the novel coronavirus may remain on surfaces for up to 72 hours, how safe are the groceries you bought? If you use the groceries after 72 hours have elapsed, the virus is unlikely to remain there. If you need to use them earlier, you may wash or wipe them with disinfectant, depending on the kind of goods. If the groceries are in a sealed container, they are likely safe.
It is highly unlikely that someone can get infected from consuming food; no such evidence has been found yet. Cooking to a certain temperature will kill the virus. Fruits and vegetables need to be washed with water, which most people do in any case.
Some experts have suggested that people should make as few trips to the store as possible. That means buying provisions to last a long period, while keeping in mind the need to avoid excessive hoarding. It’s also best to travel alone if possible, without children who might touch things you do not intend to buy.
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Another thing to remember is that the virus spreads primarily through droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and another person comes in contact with these droplets. Although the virus can survive on many surfaces and one can infect oneself after touching those surfaces, that mode of transmission is less common that through droplets.