How can you limit your exposure to COVID-19 when travelling, staying at hotel or shopping over the holidays?
Travelling by airplane, toll road or public transport this holiday? Staying at a hotel or self-catering venue? No matter how you're spending your time over the holidays, it's important to adhere to the preventive measures that limit your exposure to COVID-19 and keep you and others safe.
What to do to keep safe
- When using public transport, wear a mask at all times - over your nose and mouth - and consider taking two or three masks along so that you can change them as needed on a long trip. "Always carry alcohol-based sanitiser with you and wipe down surfaces before you sit on them. Ensure windows are open in the vehicle," adds Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Discovery Health's Head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence.
- If using private transport, make sure that everyone in the vehicle understands the preventive measures required to limit exposure to COVID-19 at tolls (sanitise immediately after handling cards or cash when paying at tolls) rest stops (make the stops brief) and other public areas. Use alcohol-based sanitiser to wipe down public areas that you will come into contact with.
- On an airplane, follow the strict safety protocols the airline requires. Direct the airflow nozzle above you towards your head to maximise the flow of fresh air. "While air filters on the flight will remove viruses in the air, you still face a risk of exposure to COVID-19 when in long queues or in contact with frequently touched areas in airports and on the airplane. Wash and sanitise your hands often," adds Dr Nematswerani.
How can you limit your exposure to COVID-19 when staying at a hotel or similar accommodation?
- When you get to your accommodation, open the windows and get fresh air in. Wipe down commonly touched areas with alcohol-based sanitiser.
- Choose to take part in outdoor activities as much as possible.
- Wear your cloth face mask at all times when out in public.
- When travelling by bus, train, taxi or domestic flight, wear your cloth face mask and avoid touching your face, other people, objects or surfaces. Wash your hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, when you reach your destination. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to clean your hands during the trip or wherever you cannot access soap and water.
- Keep your distance from others when standing in queues and observe sanitising procedures in public spaces, like bathrooms. If you have to be in a queue, try to make it for as short a time as possible.
- If you are staying in a hotel, use online reservation and check-in systems, mobile room keys and contactless payment options if they are available. This will make sure that you avoid touching cash or other commonly touched surfaces that allow illnesses to spread.
- Phone ahead to ask about the hotel's strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is no need to deep-clean and sanitise every surface. High-touch areas like door knobs and kettles should be sanitised, and regular handwashing with soap and water should kill any viruses.
- Limit your use of common areas within the hotel as much as possible, for example bathrooms, ATMs, hot tubs, swimming pools, salons, gyms and spas.
The image below recognises that no single intervention is perfect at preventing the spread of COVID-19 - multiple layers improve success.
How can you limit your exposure to COVID-19 when shopping?
- Ensure you leave home with your face mask and hand sanitiser.
- Limit your use of ATMs and cash, opting for contactless or mobile payment options.
- When making payments, use contactless and self-service options.
- When using stairs, escalators or elevators, avoid touching commonly touched surfaces and sanitise your hands after using the area.
- Choose outdoor shops if possible as you will enjoy greater ventilation and limit your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- If you are grabbing a bite to eat while out shopping (although it is best to avoid this as much as possible), ensure you adhere to general preventive measures (mask wearing and physical distancing). Try to eat outdoors or sit near windows at well-ventilated restaurants.
You have a powerful protective device in your hand - are you using it?
By mid-November, 700 000 South Africans were already using the COVID Alert SA app, the country's national Bluetooth contact-tracing app.
Are you one of them?
"This user-friendly app ensures absolute privacy but still keeps every user notified, in as close to real time as possible, about their exposure to COVID-19. The app does not track location and app users are all 100% anonymous," explains Dr Nematswerani.
"In a nutshell, the app lets users know when they have been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive for COVID-19. When someone tests positive for the disease, it's important to let those with whom they have been in close contact with over the past 14 days know, in case they have also contracted the disease but are not yet experiencing symptoms. Usually, the problem is that people who contract COVID-19 will never remember, let alone be able to provide contact details for strangers they were close to on public transport or at a social event. The app overcomes this simply by keeping a digital memory of the time that smartphones using the app have spent near each other via Bluetooth signals, which we all use daily to connect Bluetooth-enabled devices. The identity of the smartphone user is never required. All that the app tracks is contact between smartphones. It's that simple."
- Did you know that the app is only 3 MB and the data to use the app has been zero rated by all mobile networks so it won't cost you anything to use it? Once you download it, the app runs in the background (and will not affect your phone's battery life).
- Read all about the COVID Alert SA app
Want to know more about staying safe this holiday while you enjoy a well-deserved break?
Be sure to read:
- Article 2 in this series of 3: How savvy are you about staying safe during this holiday season
- Article 1 in this series of 3: What you need to know to safely meet with your loved ones over the holidays
What's Vitality's take on safe travel? Find out even more top tips for safe travelling during level 1 lockdown as well as important updates to the Vitality travel benefit now.
Haven't driven very much this year and contemplating getting back out there safely? Or, want to know other options for safe travel on our roads? Here are 5 tips for travelling safely on SA's roads and details on Vitality Drive's Drive Me benefits.