How to Protect Yourself and Your Colleagues from the Coronavirus

Whilst it may seem like half the country has gone into lockdown, there are still a significant number of businesses operating from their offices, with staff attendance expected unless anyone is showing symptoms of Coronavirus. This includes permanent members of staff and temporary staff. 

If the option to work from home is not possible, how can we best protect ourselves and our colleagues?

Sir Henry Boyle of the HCQC (Healthcare Consultancy and Qualifications Consortium) answers your questions.


Should I wear a face mask?

No.

Most face masks have no beneficial effect on preventing Covid-19 infection. They may be useful for cyclists in stopping dirty particulates (little bits of muck) being inhaled whilst riding in polluted city streets but they have no effect at all on viruses.

The only potential exceptions are the hospital operating theatre masks worn by surgeons – but these are primarily used to stop the surgeons infecting the patients. The only wholly effective masks are the heavy-duty medical masks worn as part of a whole-body kit that we sometimes see on TV news bulletins – such as those currently showing medical staff treating potential Covid-19 patients. And wrapping a scarf around your mouth and nose may get you a part as the next Doctor Who – but it certainly won’t prevent Corvid-19 infection.

Should I use anti-bacterial liquid soap?

No again. 

Covid-19 is viral, not bacterial, so anti-bac’ soap is useless in this case. Indeed, if you read the small print on many anti-bac’ soaps you will see that you have to use it neat in high concentrations, even to kill bacteria. So, don’t waste your money.

What’s the guidance on hand washing?

Should I use a hand sanitising gel/liquid?

These can be useful – but are most effective if you have washed your hands first. They can be used as an alternative to hand washing if there are no facilities available, but you will need to use more gel and cover every part of your hand.

Confusingly, some ‘anti-bacterial’ hand gels are useful against Covid-19. Choose a gel that has at least a 60% alcohol content as it’s the alcohol that kills the virus (there must be an ingredients list on the container; if there isn’t, don’t buy it).

Can I use a moisturiser after using a gel?

Yes.

Quite a few people who are washing their hands frequently and then using an alcohol gel have told me that their hands are becoming very dry and, in some cases, their skin is cracking. As this could conceivably lead to other (probably bacterial) infections I suggest using a light, water-based moisturiser such as ‘Nivea Soft’.

Should I buy ‘medicated’ tissues?

No. It’s a simple sales technique to charge a higher price for the product.


Is there any preventative medication available?

There is no medication available that is 100% guaranteed to prevent airborne infection by Covid-19 (the most usual route); however, I recommend and use a broad-spectrum anti-viral nose spray before using public transport or going to places where I’ll be in close proximity to other people. These are available to buy over the counter at pharmacies. Two brands that I use are ‘Vicks First Defence’ (about £6.50) and ‘Boots Dual Defence’ (about £5.99). Remember that these are not ‘cures’ but they will reduce the risk of you becoming infected or, if you’re already infected, passing Corvid-19 on to others. But you still need to wash your hands frequently.  

How can I keep office furniture virus-free?

Hard surfaces should be washed regularly, preferably with hot water and disinfectant, and dried with a disposable paper towel. Soft surfaces that have removable covers should be machine or hand washed regularly too. If you are concerned, check your company’s cleaning policy.

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