A few weeks ago if you heard someone talking about ‘social distancing’ you’d assume they were taking a break from Facebook.
Now it’s the primary step in the effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Australia, more specifically known as COVID-19, which is sweeping across the globe.
Social distancing is key
Social distancing simply means keeping a safe distance away from other people if you’re not in self-isolation or quarantine and includes measures such as not shaking hands, and staying about 1.5 metres away from other people.
A car is a good way to maintain social distance compared to public transport if you’re by yourself, but it’s a different story if you have to drive other people around or need to ride with someone else.
How to share a ride safely
If you have to be in a car with other people it is advised to do what is recommended for anywhere else. Avoid physical contact with other occupants such as shaking hands, and if you have to sneeze or cough do it into a tissue or into your arm behind the elbow and away from anyone else.
If you're catching a taxi or ridesharing service, sit in the back seat where possible for better separation from the driver – for their protection as well as yours. Services that use an app for payment are good as it requires no physical interaction between driver and passenger.
If you have to handle an EFTPOS machine or cash, use hand sanitiser when you get out of the car and wash your hands at the first available opportunity. Be sure to avoid touching your face directly after being inside.
And, it goes without saying, don’t drive if you’re feeling sick and avoid ferrying anyone who you believe who may have been exposed to the virus or is showing coronavirus symptoms.
Sanitising your car is important
If you’re driving people around it’s a good idea to regularly sanitise your vehicle’s surfaces to prevent your car from becoming a petri dish.
The areas to concentrate on are the hard surfaces, where virus infection is a real possibility. Viruses can live for up to nine days if the conditions are right.
The good news is normal soap is proven to kill the virus so you don’t need to use any harsh chemicals that could be harmful to yourself and the environment or damage your interior. Hand or dishwashing soap with water is fine and they don’t even need to be anti-bacterial.
Disinfectant wipes with at least 60 percent alcohol content are a convenient option and handy to keep surfaces clean while on the move. Just don't then chuck them in the toilet! Dispose of the wipes in a bin.
Tips for cleaning your car
- Start with the touchpoints like exterior and interior door handles, steering wheel, light and wiper stalks, seat-belt buckles, and gear-shifters.
- Don’t forget the infotainment touchscreen, and buttons and switches. Wipes are probably the best option here to avoid any water getting into the electrics. Your car’s owner’s manual will probably suggest any materials to avoid when cleaning the screen.
- Clean all surfaces such as the dashboard, backs of seats, windows and door cards particularly those that would be in the line of fire for anyone coughing or sneezing.
- For soft surfaces such as seat cushions, armrests, carpet and headliner, use a cleaner that’s appropriate for the material such as carpet or upholstery shampoo or leather cleaner. Don’t use any bleach-based cleaners as they’ll likely cause discolouration.
- Child restraints should so be cleaned thoroughly, as should any toys or books you keep in the car to keep them entertained as well as other loose items like USB cables.
- Have a rubbish bag handy for tissues or any disposable items like food wrappers that anyone in the car has handled.
- Wear gloves when cleaning and/or wash your hands thoroughly before and after.
And remember, a lot of people are affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Australia in many different ways, so cut other people some slack.