Wipe down public touchscreens to avoid coronavirus, expert warns

Young Asian woman travelling by plane and doing self check in at the airport using a machine
Touch screens can reportedly carry bacteria for up to five days (Getty)

An expert has warned people to wipe down touch screens in public places before using them to avoid contracting coronavirus.

According to Professor Bill Keevil, a virologist from the University of Southampton, the virus can survive on the screens for several days at a time – meaning it could be easily transmitted from person to person if they are not wiped down.

“If you think about the number of times you go to a bank or get rail tickets, any tickets,” he said.

“This is a common touch service, coronavirus can survive on glass for at least five days, if these screens are not being cleaned, which is unlikely, people should wipe them with a disinfectant wipe, or wear gloves.

Automated touch screen ordering system at McDonald's fast food restaurant in Santa Nella, California, allowing visitors to place their order and receive their food via a large touch screen interface, October 24, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
A 2018 investigation found traces of faecal matter on several McDonald's touchscreens (Getty)

“Any public touch screen needs to be wiped down.”

An investigation carried out by Metro earlier in late 2018 found traces of faeces on McDonald’s touchscreens across the UK.

Read more: Travel Restrictions Pointless If Coronavirus Gets Worse Says Government Expert

Senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, Dr Paul Matewele said at the time: “We were all surprised how much gut and faecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines.

“These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals.”

It comes after experts said people should be wiping down their phones at least twice a day to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Peter Hall, professor of public health and health systems at the University of Waterloo, described mobiles as “portable petri dishes” and said they should be disinfected regularly.

“Mobile device screens are portable petri dishes accumulating bacteria and viruses,” he wrote in The Conversation.

"Antibacterial wipes are necessary here, as they generally kill viruses as well.

Read more: Coronavirus: Police may only deal with serious crime in case of mass COVID-19 outbreak

"Clean your device at least twice daily, once at lunch and once at dinner time (or linked to another daily routine).”

According to some researchers, live coronaviruses can likely live up to 96 hours on phone screens.

Rudra Channappanavar, an immunologist at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, told Quartz touchscreen phones were particularly dangerous.

This is because tiny droplets from coughing and sneezing are likely to stick to the glass phone screens more than other surfaces.