Practical steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19

The most important way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home and don’t have visitors.

The following people are most at risk and should definitely stay home:

  • Anyone over 70 years old
  • Anyone with health conditions that would make you more likely to have worse outcomes if you catch it. This includes people with low immunity (e.g. transplant patient on immunosuppressants), lung conditions (like COPD).

Also in the ‘stay at home no matter what’ category are:

  • anyone with symptoms (unless they need medicine attention)
  • or anyone who has had contact with someone with symptoms

Symptoms of Covid-19 are: cough, fever, tiredness, (and in severe cases, difficulty breathing).

If you are one of the above persons, please ask someone to collect your groceries and medicines for you. If you know someone who fits into any of those categories, please phone them and offer to collect things for them. Groceries can be ordered and paid for online then delivered or collected. Your repeat medicines can be ordered over the phone from the pharmacy. Someone may be able to collect your medicine or you may be able to arrange for it to be delivered. You must keep taking essential medicines for your regular health conditions.

You may need to order several days in advance due to the high demand for these services during the lockdown.

It is fine for someone to drop food or medicine off to your door. Don’t let them come inside and maintain a two metres distance if you stand in the doorway and talk to them. Wash your hands after touching the bag that your food or medicine came in.

Everyone needs some exercise so a walk in your local neighbourhood each day is encouraged. Make sure you stay two metres away from other people. Do not pat dogs or cats; they can transfer the virus from their owner to you. Do not touch any surfaces while you are out, for instance I realised I always hold onto the post by the pedestrian crossing while waiting for the cars to stop. The virus stays on solid surfaces like that for up to 72 hours (three days). When you get home wash your hands (even if you think you haven’t touched anything).

Hand washing
Wash your hands before you start to prepare food. Any cans from the supermarket in your cupboard for less than three days may have virus on them, make sure you wipe all cans and wash all fresh food, and then wash your hands again. Once you take wrappers off wrapped food, throw the wrapper away and then wash your hands before touching the food inside.

Avoid touching your face or mouth with your hands unless you have just washed your hands, and then wash them again.

Wash hands:

  • before, during and after preparing food
  • after being outside for your daily walk
  • after being at the supermarket (before you hop in your car)
  • if you have been on public transport (to get to the supermarket)
  • after you have unpacked your groceries

Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds. Count it – it’s longer than you think. (Don’t forget your thumbs and finger nails).

Ordinary soap is fine. It doesn’t need to be antiseptic and you don’t need to use hand sanitiser. The soap will actually destroy the outer covering of the virus and it will die.

The only use for hand sanitiser is when there is no running water available. I understand that supermarkets have hand sanitiser for people to use before they come into the supermarket and again when they leave. Make sure you still wash your hands when you get home before touching your groceries and again after you have finished putting your groceries away.

Cover your sneezes and coughs
Cover sneezes and coughs with a paper tissue or cough into your elbow. Once you’ve used a tissue to cough or sneeze into or blow you nose, throw that tissue away and wash your hands.

Keep at least two metres away from other people, because that is how far the moisture droplets will carry the virus from them to you.

There is a lot of conflicting advice about masks. New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH) website says that face masks can reduce the spread of Covid-19 when used correctly and in the right setting (e.g. for supermarket workers who will come in contact with many people throughout the day). MoH say that for most people face masks are not necessary.

On the specific Covid-19 government website they say “If your health care provider advises you to wear a mask when in public areas because you have a particularly vulnerable immune system, follow that advice.”

If you do wear a mask this does not replace the need to still wash your hands regularly. The masks may reduce the chance of you touching your nose or mouth with hands that have come in contact with Covid-19 e.g. at the supermarket. Still keep two metres from other people.

Depending on the sort of mask you wear it may only be useful for a short time. Once it is damp it will no longer be effective at stopping the virus passing through. You must take the mask off carefully by the elastic over your ears, not touch the front of the mask and dispose of it immediately and safely, or wash it if you have one of the cute home-made fabric masks.

Make sure you avoid contact with anyone who is unwell.

Household surfaces
You should clean frequently-touched surfaces often throughout the day. Spray and wipe the kitchen bench before and after making a meal. Make sure that bathroom taps and door handles are disinfected at least once per day but more often if possible. I was given a recipe for homemade disinfecting spray and wipe using essential oils:

240ml water, 5ml liquid soap, 10 drops of thyme essential oil, 40 drops lemon essential oil, 50 drops eucalyptus essential oil.

Make sure you put the cleaning cloth in the wash each time you clean these surfaces. Put dish clothes, tea towels and hand towels in the wash every day. If you are sharing your house with others, have a separate towel each for hand drying or use paper towels to dry hands.

Do not shake out dirty clothes. This can make the virus go into the air and someone could inhale it (probably you). The virus can stay in clothes for up to 72 hours. Make sure you take off all the clothes you wore to the supermarket and put them straight in the wash. Then wash your hands and have a shower before being with the other people in your household.

Just to be clear we are staying home so that the virus spreads more slowly. It is likely that lots of people will still get Covid-19 in New Zealand. We are staying home so the vulnerable don’t die and so we don’t all get sick at once and overload the health system. The experts call this ‘flattening the curve’, that means slowing the number of people who are sick at any one time; so that our doctors and nurses can cope with the flow of patients they need to treat.

If you have questions about Covid-19 coronavirus the Ministry of Health has a dedicated 0800 number: 0800 358 5453. Use this number only for questions and concerns about Covid-19. If you think you have Covid-19 symptoms phone your usual doctor. For the most up-to-date and accurate advice look at the government website: If you are feeling down or anxious about the current Covid-19 situation you are not alone. There are lots of resources available including: