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Staying safe on public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • If you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water immediately, you should carry an alcohol cleaning gel with you, using it frequently whenever coming into contact with shared public surfaces. This is because the Coronavirus can survive on plastic or metal surfaces for up to 72 hours at a time.
  • Avoid touching your face whether or not you use public transport because the Coronavirus is invisible to the naked eye.
  • Try to limit the use of your mobile phone when using public transport.

 

Government restrictions on travel have led to various public transport companies throughout the Kingdom implementing measures to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, with many countries closing borders and announcing curfews that have led to a drastic reduction in terms of both domestic and international travel.

Avisheh Forouzesh, M.D., infectious disease specialist based in the state of New Jersey in the US, says that, “…we should be well-informed and vigilant but not anxious.” Dr Forouzesh goes on to advise those who must use public transport, such as trains, motorcycle taxis, taxis and airplanes, to adhere to the following recommendations.

Staying safe while using public transport can be achieved by adhering to the following advice:

  • If you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water immediately, you should carry an alcohol cleaning gel with you, using it frequently after coming into contact with shared public surfaces. The Coronavirus can survive on plastic or metal surfaces for up to 72 hours. Carrying a cleaning gel at all times is a simple yet effective measure that can help everyone reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends avoiding touching the eyes, nose, mouth or any part of the face whether or not you are using public transport, as the Coronavirus is invisible to the naked eye.
  • If someone coughs or sneezes close to you while riding a bus or train packed with people—meaning you are unable to move away—try to turn your body and face away from that person immediately.
  • Try to avoid holding rails or poles on public transport. If that is not possible, be sure to carry a cleaning gel or spray with you for use immediately after exiting the vehicle. Remember to avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth at all times, and if you use a tissue when holding onto a handrail, dispose of it into a closed waste bin at your earliest opportunity.
  • Do not eat or drink when using public transport as this will increase the risk of you touching your face.
  • Limit your use of mobile phones when using public transport. While this may be difficult, making such a change can be a useful reminder to yourself of the dangers currently posed by Covid-19. You can limit your use by changing where you keep your mobile phone, such as moving it from its usual position in your front pocket to a secure place in your bag. Additionally, isopropyl alcohol—an alcohol-based cleaning gel used to disinfect—should be applied to a cleaning cloth or cotton wool to disinfect the external casing of the device after use.
  • A face mask should be worn at all times when traveling by airplane, including while in the airport and on the aircraft itself. Physical distancing measures should be stringently maintained. Airline companies are responsible for signage that can help travelers physically distance, such as during check-in and when boarding the aircraft. Avoid eating and drinking on the aircraft, and be sure to fill out any relevant forms or questionnaires which are required by provincial public health authorities.
  • Avoid rush hours and busy periods when using public transportation, or carefully select routes that are not generally busy. Be sure to maintain a distance of at least 1-2 meters from other passengers whenever possible, and wait for all passengers to exit the vehicle before getting on.
  • For essential taxi trips, make sure that you only sit in the seating behind the driver to ensure you maintain as much distance as possible. This will help reduce the risk of infection. Also, be sure to wear a face mask during your taxi journey.
  • When using a motorcycle taxi, a surgical or cloth mask should be worn throughout the trip. Passengers should avoid speaking on the phone and stay seated on the vehicle at all times. An alcohol-based cleaning gel should also be kept on your person to ensure you can disinfect your hands regularly.
  • If you come across a wash basin with soap, thoroughly wash your hands immediately. Experts recommend that hand washing should last for at least 20 seconds after a trip on public transport. A moisturiser can be used to ensure your hands do not dry out despite frequent washing with soap and water.
  • Whether you are traveling by traditional train, bus or an elevated/underground mass transit system, you should be sure to clean any bags or possessions which may have come into contact with the ground with an alcohol-based solution or disinfectant.
  • Remove all clothing, take a shower, and wash your hair each time you return home, as there is a chance that your clothing may be contaminated with germs and bacteria.

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