A study conducted in the United States, looking at Covid contamination from commonly-handled items like petrol pumps may not present as much risk to motorists as first feared.
Filling up your car is an unavoidable activity if you’re still travelling for work during the pandemic – and pump handles are touched by hundreds of people over the course of a day. According to researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts however, little more than 3 per cent of the petrol pumps tested sampled positive, and under 7 per cent of surfaces in petrol stations in general.
The team collected swab samples first on five surfaces twice weekly over two weeks, then 33 unique surfaces at 12 locations over two months. Other surfaces included bins, and contact points at shops, a bank, and a restaurant.
The team discovered viral contamination on 8.3% of surfaces in total, with bins (25%) and an off-license (15%) returning the highest positive results. Predictably, the results also showed higher risk in areas where Covid was already more prevalent.
The paper is a preprint, meaning the results have not yet been peer-reviewed and may not be representative of the situation everywhere, so the study should not be used as confirmation that some places are safe.
At the same time, the study notes that such figures present lower risk than inhalation exposure, so the key advice remains to wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
As a precaution, drivers and riders should continue to use the plastic gloves provided at most pumps to minimise surface contact, and sanitise hands wherever possible.