Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

askST: Can I get Covid-19 by sharing a lift or eating food delivered by someone infected?

SINGAPORE – Variants like the B1617 strain are said to be more transmissible, where even transient exposure with someone contagious could mean infection.

The Straits Times looks at the risk of infection associated with some everyday scenarios.

Q: If I share a lift with someone who is infected, will I get the virus?

A: Lifts are an enclosed environment and will tend to be higher in risk as there are common touch points, such as lift buttons, and a place where a few people could be packed together for some time.

Covid-19 transmission occurs mainly through droplets and surfaces, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, stressing that good respiratory etiquette, like proper mask wearing, is especially important in a lift setting.

“What this means is that if we have to cough and sneeze in an enclosed, confined location, we should cover our mouths, preferably with an arm sleeve, or your hands if there is no better alternative. Be sure to wash or disinfect your hands after that,” Prof Teo added.

To minimise transmission through droplets, proper mask wearing is critical, with the mask covering both the nose and the mouth.

Not talking in the lift would also greatly minimise exposure to droplets and reduce the likelihood of transmission significantly.

Q: Is it possible for transmission to happen if I touch letterboxes, door handles or staircase railings in public places?

A: The virus does not survive long on surfaces, especially in Singapore’s hot climate. But to protect ourselves, one should practise good hand hygiene by regularly washing hands with soap and water after touching these surfaces. Using hand sanitisers is also useful.

Prof Teo stressed that there is no need to panic or be overly worried as the risk of being infected when air is circulating freely, such as in open corridors of Housing Board blocks, is extremely small, and even smaller when proper mask wearing and hand hygiene is diligently practised.

Q: Will I get the virus if I am out running and the runner who runs past me is infected?

A: With intense physical exercise no longer allowed in indoor gyms, running has to happen in an open environment such as in parks or along the roads. These premises have good ventilation and that will help to minimise risk of transmission.

A runner who passes you briefly is unlikely to transmit the virus, especially since there is no physical contact.

To further reduce the risk, do not run in crowded spaces, practise social distancing between runners and put on a mask once the exercise is completed.

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Q: Can I get the virus from the food delivery man? What about the food and beverage handler who is preparing my food?

A: The risk is low if the proper protocol is followed.

Food handlers should not be in direct contact with food at all times. They should be wearing gloves, properly masked up and washing their hands before handling food. If they feel unwell or know of anyone they were in close contact with who had the virus, they should also be responsible and take time off work to keep their customers as well as their colleagues safe.

Stall owners should also ensure that there are not too many workers in a single stall.

Food delivery men would not be in direct contact with the food, and once again, proper hand hygiene should be practised.

Q: Will I get the virus from the driver if I take a private hire car ride or book a taxi?

A: Vehicles are enclosed environments, which increase the risk of spread. Grab and taxi drivers also ferry many different passengers daily, increasing the possibility of transmission.

To reduce this risk, minimise conversation with the driver to prevent the formation of any droplets. Wear your mask properly and avoid sneezing and coughing. Some drivers have a good habit of sanitising their car seats between passengers and this will further reduce the possibility of spread between passengers.

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