Not touching your face to avoid the coronavirus or COVID-19 may seem like a trivial precautionary measure to take compared to washing your hands and wearing a mask. However, by taking this action, you are avoiding one of the main transmission mechanisms that the coronavirus utilises to get into your body – hand to face.

COVID-19 – the hand to face transmission process

This transmission model is as basic as it gets. Infected people deposit viruses (and bacteria) on public surfaces, and then those that touch the same contaminated surfaces afterwards, transfer the germs to their fingers and then their eyes, nose or mouth, thus complete the transmission process.

You can acquire up to 50% of microorganisms from a contaminated surface through one touch alone. To add to the risk, germs living on contaminated surfaces can live for several hours if not days. Compared to infection via inhaling infected water droplets in this scenario, the risk may be far greater.

Physical vs airborne transmission of the coronavirus

You would need to be in close proximity (5 metres or less) to an infected person to catch the virus through the air. Once they have moved on though, the airborne risk greatly diminishes. However, the transmission risk from that individual may still remain.

That’s because if the infected person has touched any hard surfaces, the coronavirus can still survive for long periods. Touching any of those surfaces in the meantime and then touching your face may still present an infection risk even though the infected party has long gone.

Face touching – a hard habit to break to avoid the coronavirus

Not touching your face is not as easy as it sounds. It is one of the most common subconscious habits people have, and it can be an extremely hard habit to break. Studies have shown that we can touch our faces hundreds if not thousands of times per day.

The problem is so significant that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other disease and prevention organisations are begging people to stop touching their faces with unwashed hands.

Tedro Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO has stated that “Touching your face after touching contaminated surfaces or sick people is one of the ways the #coronavirus can be transmitted.” So when you are out and about during the coronavirus pandemic, don’t forget to keep your hands away from your face at all times!