Coronavirus: The key step you should take after hand washing to prevent COVID-19

NHS GP Dr Gero Baiarda is one of the hundreds of GPs currently on-call at GPDQ, the UK’s leading GP-on-demand service. Dr Baiarda dispels some of the biggest myths regarding the deadly COVID-19, including information on hand washing, moisturising, cleaning the house and how exactly the virus is spread.


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Myth 1 People are most contagious before they even know they have the virus

Dr Baiarda said: “This is untrue.

“Infected cells are invaded and destroyed by the virus, allowing millions of new viruses to burst forth and be shed on surfaces or passed to other people.

“Spread is most effective, therefore, in coughed droplets. Patients who are asymptomatic can, however, pass on the virus as soon as they are infected.


Myth 2 The virus is a living organism that we can kill

“It is not alive. It is a protein chain of RNA within a protective layer of fat.

“Since the virus is a protein super molecule rather than a living organism, you cannot kill it.

“It will, however, decay spontaneously given enough time. The time it takes to break down depends on the environment temperature, humidity and type of material upon which it settles,” said Dr Baiarda.

Myth 3 SARS-COV-2 is a hardy virus

Dr Baiarda said: “It isn’t. SARS-COV-2 is surprisingly fragile. The only protection it has is a thin outer layer of lipid or fat.

“That is why any soap or detergent will destroy it – even washing up liquid works well. By dissolving the external lipid layer of the virus, the virus is rendered completely inert and unable to penetrate human cells. Hence why washing hands often with soap and water is so important.”


Myth 4 If the delivery drivers wear gloves, they won’t spread it

Dr Baiarda answered: “This is wrong. Every item that a gloved hand touches can be contaminated.

“According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can live up to eight hours on cardboard.

“To stay safe, the best advice is not to touch the parcel until ideally the following day.”

Myth 5 The virus can’t be passed on by food

“It can be transferred easily. If someone who has the virus on their hands touches food, it is very likely to become contaminated for many hours.

“To denature and inactivate the virus, food should either be washed or cooked at 65 degrees Celsius at least for four minutes or more,” said Dr Baiarda.


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Myth 6 Alcohol-based sanitizer with a 60 percent alcohol concentration is as effective as washing your hands in soap and water

Dr Baiarda added: “This is wrong. Squirting a little bit of alcohol gel on your palms and rubbing them together is not effective.

“You need to cover the entire surface of both hands including fingers and thumbs, but this should be done only after the hands are free of any residues – such as after sneezing.

“The small nozzle on bottles of sanitizer are part of the problem, as people assume a small amount is ample.”

Myth 7 Drinking alcohol will prevent people getting the virus

“This is not true. The only alcohol that will help to prevent the spread of the virus is that in hand sanitizers.

“This is only for external use and even then, it is only effective if it has a concentration of 60 percent or above, if you use enough and in the right way,” answered Dr Baiarda.

Myth 8 Moisturising hands after washing reduces cleanliness

“Incorrect. Moisturising the skin is very important. The virus can lodge itself in damaged skin on your hands cracked by repeated washing, so its important to try to avoid this.

“Keeping fingernails short will reduce the risk of sheltering and passing on the virus too, “said Dr Baiarda.

Myth 9 Washing hands isn’t as important when self-isolating, as you’re all virus-free

Dr Baiarda said: “Wrong. If there are any external items entering your home, hand washing remains important. Every time you wash your hands you will break the chain of infection.

“If in doubt, give them a wash. Do this for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water and if you have paper towels that you can throw away, this is better than using a communal towel. If using towels, dedicate one to each person in the house, keep them separate and wash them daily.

Myth 10 Vinegar is good for keeping bathrooms and kitchens free of the virus

“Incorrect. Vinegar will not work against the virus and is not advised. The cleaning of bathrooms, kitchens and surfaces is still best carried out with hot water from the tap and a surface detergent as you have always done.

“If you have a case of the virus in your house and want to disinfect common areas, you can use a dilution of household bleach or hydrogen peroxide – this is a mild antiseptic,” answered Dr Baiarda.

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