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How to shop safely and with no paranoia during the coronavirus

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Diane Rain
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With little ascertained information, and many sources broadcasting what we think we know, citizens are often left confused, and therefore worried, about what they should change in their everyday behavior, to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus. Below, is a summary of widespread and verified recommendations to make it safely through the current viral times.

No food is recommended or warned against

Many questions have been asked about which foods favor or prevent the transmission of the virus. Many of these questions stemmed simply from the overall ignorance we have of the virus. Covid19 is a new virus and much research is still to be done on the strain, which also explains why we have no cure or vaccine, for the time being. However, the virus' capacity to travel through different types of food has been addressed, and no evidence whatsoever indicates that a viral risk exists in that field. Inverse reporter Sarah Sloat writes: "So far, there is no evidence that food is "a likely source or route of transmission of the virus," according to the European Food Safety Authority, an agency of the European Union. That conclusion is largely informed by the fact that when previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses happened, like SARS-COV and MERS-COV, transmission through food consumption did not occur." Covid19 being genetically very close to SARS and SRAS, it can safely be assumed that the observation is valid for all. "The WHO advises that "as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided", she adds, for anyone wishing to be safer than safe. Also, many have wondered whether certain types of food could help the body resist the virus, or others could deplete capacities to do so. But a virus is to be distinguished from bacteria; it is a strand of harmful DNA, not a living organism. Eating habits will therefore have no impact on the virus, whether in catching it or in resisting it. Finally, the types of food, whether fresh or frozen, also seem neutral in the risk analysis. A virus can indeed be destroyed in extreme temperatures, but frozen goods never reach those levels anyway. Therefore, eating habits can be followed normally, without any additional risk being taken.

How to pay

For smaller errands, contactless payments will do just fine, precisely because they enable transactions, with an air barrier (reminder: air is not a vector for the virus). However, because contactless payments are usually reserved for small sums, the option may be unavailable when checking out. Health expert Jamie Roberts writes: "Things have, of course, improved with the invention of contactless payments, as you may now pay without even physically touching the terminal. But contactless payments are mostly available for small sums only, and for bigger purchases, things do not look so rosy." In this case, cash is to be preferred. While initial and erroneous statements suspected currency to be a facilitator for the pandemic, scientists quickly established the opposite. Paper currency is a bad environment for the virus, and coins are even worse. Punching in a pin code, during credit or debit card payments, however, cannot be recommended. Jamie Roberts adds: " Payment terminals may be worse than cash. Whereas a banknote or coin spent at a store will likely find a new owner soon, it only goes to one wallet at a time. Meanwhile, dozens of customers per hour can touch the buttons of a payment terminal." Indeed, the virus can live up to 10 days on plastic surfaces, and pin pads are used every few minutes. Any patient with infected hands, using a pin pad in the morning while shopping, will presumably infect hundreds of others, through the card terminal. The use of drive-ins, and shopping online (whenever possible, despite restrictions and disruptions), is also recommended. Instyle journalist Alexandra Ilyashov reports that "According to the CDC, there is a "very low risk" of the coronavirus spreading through mail that is "shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures."

If possible, shop ahead of time

For the most fearful readers, or those most at risk, it is recommended to shop early, and not at the last minute. In the unlikely event that packaging be tainted with the virus, a simple 24-hour storage period before touching the packet again will probably solve the problem, as viruses have only a short lifespan on surfaces(a few days), outside of a viable host. Health expert Tobie Stanger writes: "One preliminary study found that the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic doesn't survive on cardboard longer than 24 hours. Results of the study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other experts, were published on March 17 in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine." For extra protection, it is also possible to unwrap all foods, and then sanitize hands - which will reduce the contamination risk from "very low" to "zero".

Senior citizens, of course, are the most at risk, when shopping. If at all possible, younger family members should shop for them, or they should use home delivery services. The World Health Organization reminds us that the simplest, yet most effective way to combat the virus spreading, is simply to follow hygienic rules stringently, especially upon returning home from public places (such as markets and supermarkets), so as not to infect entire homes.

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Freethinker, I like to learn new things and meet different people. I can study hard and like to think out of the box. Please, see my articles as a small part of what I am!
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