People all over the country have been going into voluntary and involuntary social isolation starting this January due to a virus named Coronavirus which causes the COVID-19; a disease that the WHO declared as a pandemic on 11th March 2020.
What is social isolation one might ask?
It is stated to be “the non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention to avoid/decrease contact between those who are affected with a disease-causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the extent of the disease” in the Advisory on social distancing measure in view of the spread of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Now that being said, we still need food. It is a basic necessity. Thus, grocery shopping becomes one of the riskiest necessities in our lives right now.
Let us split the excursion into four parts.
What are the pre-preparations to be done before we go grocery shopping during COVID-19?
Firstly, there are a few things to be taken care of before leaving for the store.
Wash your hands before leaving for the store. Make sure to pack your hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes in case you need to touch the handles of the doors or need to wipe down the handles of the shopping carts/ baskets that you will be using there. These are surfaces that many people come in contact with during the process of shopping and are thus at a higher risk of being contaminated. Remind yourself to not touch your nose, mouth and ears to prevent the virus from directly entering your body.
Things to be taken care while shopping at the store during COVID-19
For the second part, while at the store remember to keep a safe distance. The WHO advises people to maintain 1 meter (3 feet) distance between individuals. A fact you must not forget while going outdoors during this pandemic. If you see crowded areas within the store, try to avoid them as much as you can, especially when waiting in line at the cashiers. Store workers and cashiers are working at their own risk; kindly maintain the necessary distance between you and them so as to not infect them accidentally.
It is to be noted that most stores are advised to practice social distancing. At smaller stores, only a few people will be allowed to shop at a time to reduce the number of people who will be in contact with each other. Make sure that only one person from a family is at the store at a given point in time to reduce the crowd at the store and people at risk of being infected.
The possibility of the virus spreading through surfaces is very small but, there is a high risk of an infected person has coughed or sneezed within the store and thus the object getting contaminated at the store itself. It is thus advised to reduce contact with the number of objects or surfaces that you touch while at the store.
The WHO has also not determined the exact number of hours that the virus survives on a given surface but it has stated that the survival of the virus outside the body is not extremely long and depends on a variety of factors such as the nature of the surface and the temperature and humidity of the environment.
People are advised not to wear masks unless they are infected or sick. The possibility of catching the virus by improper handling or removal of the mask is one of the cons of wearing the mask. It also lessens the availability of the mask to the people who truly need them. People are also advised not to cough or sneeze openly.
It is better to go cashless while grocery shopping as it reduces the amount of contact between you and the cashier. You may use other means to pay but ensure that your card is cleaned well without compromising its effectiveness and that it comes to minimum contact with other surfaces. If you choose to use cash, do not forget to clean your hands thoroughly and keep the exchanged money separately and clean your hands thoroughly after touching it.
What needs to be taken care while leaving the store , after shopping during COVID-19?
The third part consists of the precautions to be taken right after grocery shopping.
One must either clean their hands with a hand sanitizer having over 60% alcohol content or under running water with soap immediately after shopping.
If you use vehicles to commute between your house and your store, kindly ensure that you sanitize your hands or clean them with soap and water before touching your steering wheel/handle etc.
What precautions need to be taken while returning home?
The fourth part consists of the measures to be taken to ensure safety within the household.
All items that do not need to be used immediately can be kept separately for a day or so before being arranged with other household items. Non-edibles can be easily sanitized using a simple disinfectant.
Washing your produce with powerful chemical substance is not advised. Wash it as you would normally do, ensuring that you are cleaning it thoroughly.
Using a disinfectant, clean all surfaces where the grocery was kept on, including kitchen counters /floor where they were kept.
You can try and visit the stores while it is not peak time. First preference must be given to the elderly and people with high risk such as those with lung or immunity problems, diabetes etc.
Hoarding items only causes more harm and good. Kindly try to remain calm and use resources only as much as necessary.
Take care to maintain distance and wash your hands often and take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.
For More Information visit the WHO website regarding Food and Agriculture