Public urged to get ‘back to basics’ to reduce Christmas risk
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to remember the basic steps to help reduce their risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 – wear a face covering, maintain social distancing, and practise good hand hygiene – as well as keeping rooms well-ventilated, over the festive period.
Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “The core advice around what we can do to reduce our risk has been in place since the start of the pandemic. However, these steps really will be the most effective way of helping to protect ourselves and those around us over Christmas, so I urge people to stick to them.
“Wear a face covering indoors where social distancing isn’t possible, or where it’s required, such as in shops, shopping centres, taxis, public transport and banks.
“It is also essential to wear a face covering properly and to handle it appropriately, or else it won’t provide the maximum level of protection. For example, make sure both your nose and mouth are covered, and it fits snugly – if you leave your nose exposed, it means you’re exhaling and inhaling without any covering, which largely defeats the purpose of it. Also, avoid touching or adjusting your face covering unless your hands are clean, as you risk transferring the virus from your hands to your face. If you are wearing a face covering, don’t get a false sense of security about the level of protection it may offer.
“You should also maintain a social distance of at least 2m (around 6ft) between you and anyone outside of your household, to minimise your exposure to the virus and reduce the potential of spreading the infection.
“The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus. Try not be too close to people for more than a short period of time, as much as you can.
“It is also important to wash your hands properly, as this is one of the most effective things you can do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Wash hands regularly, and use sanitiser outside your home when hand washing isn’t possible, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Also try to avoid touching your face, and wash your hands as soon as you get home. If you sneeze or cough, ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.’”
“Additionally, if you are indoors, you should keep a room well-ventilated – evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated rooms and outdoors. Even though it is colder at this time of year, if you are indoors with people from outside your immediate household, try to keep windows open and use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated.”
Dr Waldron added: “With many of us doing our shopping ahead of the festive break and maybe meeting friends or family, it is so important not to become complacent.
“The advice is simple, but it is there for a reason – to help keep us and those around us safe. Don’t take unnecessary risks, exercise common sense, and take every step available to help protect yourself, your loved ones and the community.
“Vaccination against COVID-19 has already begun, but it will take time to roll out across society – let’s all make sure we do what we can to stay safe in the meantime.”
For more information see www.pha.site/coronavirus