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How to reduce the risk of coronavirus in your vehicle

Most of us will be staying well away from our cars over the next few weeks due to the necessary self-isolation rules issued by HM government in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Staying in our homes (except for one form of exercise per day and any essential trips for food or medicine) will reduce the spread of the virus, support the continuation of our essential infrastructures, and ultimately help us to overcome the effects of the virus as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, many of our key workers will be relying on their cars to get to work in order to evade the increased risks posed by using public transport. Plus, a lot of the essential work that needs to continue will, by its very nature, be dependent on vehicle travel.

If you are required to use your vehicle while the corona virus remains a threat, we recommend following these steps each time you use your vehicle. Those returning to their vehicles once self-isolation comes to an end should also do so to minimise the likelihood that the virus will reemerge.

We must reiterate that it is important not to use your vehicle unless it is absolutely necessary to do so while self-isolation measures are in place.

How is coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 is caught from other people who have the virus, this includes carriers and not just those showing symptoms. The virus spreads when small droplets from the nose or mouth of someone with COVID-19 are inhaled or touched by anyone else. Most likely, this contamination happens when someone coughs, sneezes or exhales either directly onto someone else or on surfaces that are subsequently touched by others.

The advice to thoroughly wash our hands reduces the risk of spreading the disease by clearing away the virus even when contaminated surfaces have been touched, provided we haven’t first touched our eyes, nose or mouth. The two-metre advisory distance between persons then reduces the risk of contamination directly through exhalation.

How can coronavirus spread in vehicles?

As with any other surface, those within our vehicles are susceptible to transmit the virus. One of the most obvious difficulties is the proximity in which we share the space with passengers. For most of us, the two-metre rule is just not possible to maintain if we are sharing a vehicle. Secondly, our vehicles contain many surfaces of varying materials and with many spaces exceedingly difficult to keep clean. Touch is also an unavoidable component of driving, not least on the steering wheel and seat belts, but also for windows, media and climate controls.

Any surface touched by an infected person could remain contaminated for up to three days with airspace remaining a risk for up to three hours.

How can I protect my vehicle from spreading coronavirus?

There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus but there are preventative measures we can abide by to reduce the spread. When considering how we can protect the spread of coronavirus within our vehicles, we must:

1) Assess whether vehicle use is absolutely necessary
2) If vehicle use is unavoidable, if possible ensure there is only one user of the vehicle during the self-isolation period
3) Thoroughly clean the vehicle, wearing protective gloves and focussing on common touchpoints
4) Most common household cleaners and disinfectants will work, but ensure they are safe to use on the varying surfaces in your vehicle to avoid lasting damage. Most effective are household disinfectant wipes, where available.

Tips to protect from coronavirus when cleaning your vehicle.

Once you are equipped with protective gloves and disinfectant wipes, it is time to begin the deep clean of your vehicle. This will be required each time someone uses the vehicle regardless of whether they are showing coronavirus symptoms. Importantly, it is possible to do this alone and can therefore be completed while within self-isolation.

Due to the confined nature of a car and the frequency of air recycled and circulated within it, airing it out by opening all doors will help ventilate against any lingering germs.

Start with the places we come into most frequent contact with when driving: door handles, keys, steering wheel, gear stick and seatbelts. The dashboard is also an area particularly prone to holding germs so this should be the next focus. Then consider all touchscreens, buttons and controls. Thoroughly wipe over with disinfectant products, being careful to leave no surface uncleaned.

Surfaces both inside and outside of the car are capable of carrying the virus, although the outside is less susceptible due to sun and weather shortening the lifespan of any lingering germs. If it isn’t possible to thoroughly clean the outside of your vehicle in full each time, door handles, fuel ports and other exterior touchpoints are a must.

Soap won’t kill the germs but it does lower the risk of spreading the infection on materials that may be damaged by harsher cleaning products.

How can I protect myself from coronavirus when refuelling?

Fuel pump handles and pay stations are high-risk areas due to the volume of people using them. As well as ensuring your own fuel port is kept clean, wearing gloves and disinfecting the fuel pump with wipes before you use it, as well as using pay at pump services where possible, is advised.

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to abide by self-isolation rules outlined by HM government and to stay indoors. If you require use of your vehicle as a key worker, or to make essential trips for food and medicine, then travelling alone following a deep clean of the vehicle will help reduce the risk of you catching or spreading the disease.

If you want to learn more about how COVID-19 could affect you if you lease your vehicle, read our coronavirus FAQs

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Posted on 26th March 2020 at 11:08 AM

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