Combating Covid-19: How to stay safe as you shop for groceries in UAE  04/06/2020 14:00:00  2  Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi

Packages can get contaminated if Covid-19 positive persons have coughed or sneezed into it, medical experts have warned. Using masks and gloves, and adopting a good hand hygiene protocol can keep you safe from contracting the virus as you shop for groceries.

Covid-19 virus can live on various surfaces from hours to days, and there is a possibility that food packs at stores are contaminated.

Take extra precautions while at supermarkets, especially while handling groceries. Wipe your carts, wear masks, disposable gloves and maintain social distancing. Bin the gloves once out of stores and don't take them home. Never touch your face, nose and eyes. Prefer plastic to reusable bags," doctors told Khaleej Times as the UAE steps up precautionary measures in the fight against the coronavirus.

Simple mantra: Wash your hands often

Residents have to be alert while shopping, said Dr Sandeep Pargi, pulmonologist, Aster Hospital, Mankhool.

"An infected person may not be aware of his condition, which is possible in many cases. He/she may go to a store and touch packets with unclean hands or sneeze and cough near the food packets or any other stuff. Those packets may carry the virus to another person without an infection."

The doctor noted that elderly people and children should avoid shopping. "Use a credit/debit card or other non-cash modes for payment transactions, and sanitise hands before and after shopping.

"One of the main ways the virus spreads is by touching infected surfaces and then your face, mouth, nose and eyes. If your infected hand is in contact with other people's hand and face, it will again spread the virus. So don't mind about overdoing - keep washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser frequently."

Asymptomatic carrier can spread virus

Dr Faisal Hamza Dalvi, specialist, internal medicine, Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said people need to careful as there are chances of asymptomatic carriers too. "Anyone in the asymptomatic phase can transfer the virus. Symptoms usually start on;y on the sixth or seventh day after getting infected with the virus. If everyone wears masks, then all are protected.

"We still don't know exactly the time duration that the virus survives on various surfaces. There are different studies but the bottom line is that it can last from hours to days. Wear masks when you are outdoors, especially while shopping," he added.

How to handle grocery items at home

Dr Dalvi said people need to follow measures beyond hand sanitisers to counter the spread of Covid-19.

"Once you bring the groceries home, keep it on a table, which has been cleaned with a disinfectant. Empty all food products and get rid of all plastics. Wash your hands and place stuff into containers. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. For those products with plastic packaging, transfer into storage boxes and throw away the wraps. Products in boxes should be cleaned from the outside. Wash your hands regularly. Hand hygiene is the key aspect. It's a crucial way to kill the virus."

He added that precautionary measures should not lead to panic. "Sneeze and cough with a bent elbow and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Anyone having any symptoms, issues with upper and lower respiratory tract infections or dry cough should report to hospitals."

Visit stores when not crowded

Dr Caterine Fakhry, general practitioner at Medcare Medical Centre, Khawaneej, said the majority of transmissions is due to close contact with infected persons compared to spreading from shared surfaces.

"However, people should ideally visit stores in the morning and afternoon hours when it is less crowded. Take sanitising wipes to clean the shopping cart, wear gloves and sanitise hands on the way to check out. Covid-19 can survive on surfaces from three hours to nine days. Any kind of alcohol-based gel or handwashing products can mitigate the potential of exposure.

"If you order online, ask the delivery person to leave the groceries outside your door, wash your hands before and after picking up the groceries," she added.

Ashwani Kumar

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