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Coronaviruses could live on our phones for 9 days. Here’s how to use it without worrying about infection

An infectious diseases specialist from the Philippine College of Physicians has these smart suggestions
Rhia Diomampo Grana | Mar 10 2020

What’s the one thing that’s constant in our lives? That is not an existential question looking for a deep reply. The answer: it’s our smartphone. It goes with us everywhere—to a public transit, our work desk, to the dining area, the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, even to the toilet!

The Digital 2019 report, produced by social media management platform Hootsuite and digital marketing agency We Are Social, proves this. According to the study, Filipinos spend an average of four hours and 58 minutes a day using mobile internet. This makes the Philippines the second heaviest mobile internet user among countries all over the world—next to Thailand, with a record of 5 hours and 13 minutes of use a day. 

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While health authorities have constantly reminded us about the importance of hand hygiene (wash your hands for 20 seconds or use 70% alcohol) as a preventive measure for the spread of COVID-19 virus, the fact that we carry our phones almost all the time means that we are potentially exposing ourselves to the germs and contaminants present on those surfaces.  

But we can’t not pick up our calls, right? So what do we do?

1. Mind your own phone.

Infectious diseases specialist and the incoming president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), Dr. Mario Panaligan, gives a simple but sensible advice, on top of observing proper hand hygiene. “Don’t allow others to touch or use your phone and don’t use others’ phones,” he says.

2. Keep phone away from dirty surfaces.

There is a chance you’re reading this article on the toilet. Don’t bring the phone with you when you poop! An important fact to take note of according to a study published by the Journal of Hospital Infection: coronaviruses can remain infectious on surfaces like glass, metal or plastic for up to nine days, and could therefore be a potential source of viral transmission. So better think twice next time you press your phone up against your face when you make a phone call.

3. Clean your devices regularly.

Apple provides a detailed guideline in cleaning its devices. But basic rules are to unplug all cables and turn off your iPhone (of course!), use a soft slightly damp, lint-free cloth (avoid using paper towels as the rough surface might scratch your screen over time) with warm soapy water, and to avoid getting moisture in soft openings. Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide to clean your iPhone.

4. Consider using earphones.

“Surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute” can effectively inactivate coronaviruses, says Journal of Hospital Infection. But since this could possibly damage our gadget, it may be a wise option to simply use earphones when making that call.