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Monday, September 21, 2020

'Hands, face, space': Department of Health launches campaign pushing basic coronavirus messages


A worrying video showing how far coronavirus droplets can travel indoors has been released by the Government ahead of a dreaded winter surge in cases.

The two-minute video reminds people viral particles can be launched across rooms  by infectious people just talking or breathing. 

It comes as part of the Government’s latest ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign which attempts to drill basic Covid messaging to the masses in time for winter. 

In one clip, a shopper is seen leaving a fog of infectious droplets in her wake as she moves through a supermarket – highlighting the need for face masks in shops.

Another shows viral particles oozing from a woman’s mouth as she chats to a friend at home. The droplets are then transferred from her hands and face to a mobile phone and mug, reiterating the importance of keeping distance and hand washing.

Cases are expected to go up as the virus thrives in colder climates and people stay indoors more often – where transmission is more likely. 

‘Hands, Face, Space’ will feature on TV, radio and online adverts, as well as billboards across the country after young people were accused of ignoring key measures.

In one clip, a shopper is seen leaving a fog of infectious droplets in her wake as she moves through a supermarket - highlighting the need for face masks in shops

In one clip, a shopper is seen leaving a fog of infectious droplets in her wake as she moves through a supermarket – highlighting the need for face masks in shops

Another shows viral particles oozing from a woman's mouth as she chats to a friend at home

Another shows viral particles oozing from a woman’s mouth as she chats to a friend at home

The droplets are then transferred from her hands and face to a mobile phone and mug, reiterating the importance of keeping distance and hand washing

The droplets are then transferred from her hands and face to a mobile phone and mug, reiterating the importance of keeping distance and hand washing

Ministers including the premier himself and Matt Hancock have for weeks been repeating the tripartite slogan during interviews to try to get it to catch on.

Boris Johnson, who boasted about shaking hands with everyone during a hospital visit in March, said the new slogan reminded Britons to regularly wash their hands.

‘Face’ means masks should always be worn on public transport and in shops – despite the UK Government waiting longer than most other nations to make face coverings mandatory.

And ‘space’ highlights the importance of maintaining social distancing, even though ministers have told workers to return to offices and scrapped the two-metre rule in pubs.

'Hands, face, space' will feature on TV, radio and online adverts, as well as billboards across the country from today

‘Hands, face, space’ will feature on TV, radio and online adverts, as well as billboards across the country from today

Boris Johnson, who boasted about shaking hands with everyone during a hospital visit in March, said the new slogan reminded Britons to regularly wash their hands

Boris Johnson, who boasted about shaking hands with everyone during a hospital visit in March, said the new slogan reminded Britons to regularly wash their hands

DOES THE GOVERNMENT EXPECT COVID-19 TO GET WORSE IN WINTER? 

Although the coronavirus hasn’t been around long enough for scientists to study whether it changes in the winter, looking at cold and flu viruses – which are most common in colder months – can shed some light on how viruses are more infectious in winter.

Dry, cold air supports viruses

For a virus that causes infection by piggy-backing on droplets of moisture coming out of someone’s airways, like Covid-19, its ability to float in the air is critical for infecting people.

Warmer air is more humid, meaning it has more moisture and droplets in the air bind to the droplets carrying the virus. This makes them bigger and heavier and causes them to fall to the ground faster, where they are significantly less likely to infect someone.

In cold air, which is naturally drier, they can remain lighter and float for longer, meaning they’re more likely to spread disease.

Flu virus gets physically harder

A study in 2008 found that the outer membrane, or shell, of a flu virus actually gets harder in cold weather.

It turns from a more liquid blob in warm weather to a tough, rubbery coating in the winter. This means the virus is stronger and can survive for longer.

There is no evidence the same thing will happen with the coronavirus, because it is a different type of organism – but it is possible. 

Human behaviour changes

Viruses can spread more effectively in winter because people spend more time together indoors, where they are forced into closer contact than they would be in the park in summer.

The closer together people are, the more likely they are to spread the virus between them.

People are also more likely to get too little vitamin D in the winter, because they usually make it from exposing their skin to sunlight. 

Shorter daylight hours – and cold weather even when the sun is shining – mean people don’t make as much of the vitamin, which is vital fuel for the immune system and helps the body to fight off viral infections. 

Studies have found Covid-19 patients with vitamin D deficiencies appear to be more likely to be hospitalised or die than those with enough of the vitamin.

The latest slogan is a return to form for the Government, which initially won plaudits for its simple ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan in March before lockdown.

Ministers were then been heavily mocked and criticised for its confusing ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ campaign launched in May to encourage people out of their homes to restart the economy.

Downing Street is said to have invested in polling and focus groups to test the waters for its new slogan. 

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘As we approach winter and inevitably spend more time indoors, we need the public to keep following this important advice to control the spread of the virus.

‘Hands. Face. Space’ emphasises important elements of the guidance we want everybody to remember: wash your hands regularly, use a face covering when social distancing is not possible and try to keep your distance from those not in your household.

‘Following these simple steps could make a significant difference in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 and help protect you and your friends, colleagues and family from the virus.’

Professor Catherine Noakes, an expert in airborne infections and member of SAGE said: ‘Coronavirus is emitted in tiny droplets when we breathe, talk, laugh or cough. 

‘Other people can be exposed to these when they are close to someone with the virus or they are in a poorly ventilated room for a long time.

‘Wearing a face covering prevents most of these droplets from being released into the air, and can also reduce the number of droplets that you are exposed to. 

‘That is why wearing a face covering serves as a vital first line of defence against catching and spreading the virus, along with regular and thorough handwashing with soap and water and maintaining a safe distance wherever possible.’

Covid-19 cases are expected to rise in winter, when the air is colder and people stay indoors more where the virus finds it easier to spread. 

Covid causes infection by piggy-backing on droplets of moisture coming out of someone’s airways and its ability to float in the air is critical for infecting people.

Warmer air is more humid, meaning it has more moisture and droplets in the air bind to the droplets carrying the virus. 

This makes them bigger and heavier and causes them to fall to the ground faster, where they are significantly less likely to infect someone.

In cold air, which is naturally drier, they can remain lighter and float for longer, meaning they’re more likely to spread disease.

Meanwhile viruses can spread more effectively in winter because people spend more time together indoors, where they are forced into closer contact than they would be in the park in summer.

The closer together people are, the more likely they are to spread the virus between them.

People are also more likely to get too little vitamin D in the winter, because they usually make it from exposing their skin to sunlight. 

Shorter daylight hours – and cold weather even when the sun is shining – mean people don’t make as much of the vitamin, which is vital fuel for the immune system and helps the body to fight off viral infections. 

Studies have found Covid-19 patients with vitamin D deficiencies appear to be more likely to be hospitalised or die than those with enough of the vitamin. 

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