First, it was little more than a tickling cough and a sore throat. Then there was a light, excruciating headache that came and went. In normal times, 38-year-old Adrian Simpson wouldn’t have thought about it much.
But when the cough lasted for about a day, he went online and booked a Covid test. “I wasn’t concerned. It was more out of curiosity than anything else,” explains the elementary school teacher, who lives with his partner in Chiswick, West London.
When the result was positive, Adrian admitted that he was “quite shocked”. He was confused too. It was late January and he hadn’t been further than the local supermarket for weeks – and even then, late in the evening when it was quiet.
He had made it his business to end the day by walking a few laps of the park down the street that he admits was “sometimes like Piccadilly Circus.” And there had been a couple of cool outdoor meetings with a friend, but that had been weeks before.
Adrian recovered within a few days – his partner tested negative – and he’s now ended the isolation. But he was left with the nagging question that undoubtedly baffles many of the four million Britons who have tested positive for the virus: Where did I catch Covid?
Perfect Transmission Point: Shops can be a place for the virus to linger, but you are more likely to catch Covid at the checkout than if you touch food
An employee pictured himself in a queue outside a Waitrose supermarket in Frimley, southwest of London, enforcing social distancing rules last March
Even after the country was almost completely closed since January 6, around 15,000 people a day tested positive for Covid last week.
The week before it was 20,000 – every day. Could it be, as Adrian suspects, that many get it in the supermarket or in the park?
It is now widely recognized that bars, restaurants, and gyms – indoor spaces where strict social distancing is not always possible – are ideal environments for the virus to be transmitted between people.
But have the few places we still need to have during the lockdown now become infection hubs?
Even a year into the pandemic, it’s not as easy to come up with a straight answer as you might think. If a person tests positive, Test and Trace will ask them about places they’ve been in the past week. Public Health England collects this information and then publishes it.
In the latest report, 53 percent of those who tested positive for the week ending February 11 said they had visited a supermarket – strangely enough, they make no difference to work or shop. While this shows where a person was, it does not tell us when or where the transmission took place.
A man walks past a sign that reads “Please wear face-covering” while shopping at Sainsbury’s in Newcastle-under-Lyme on January 12th this year
An Asda supermarket on London’s Old Kent Road envisioned packing with people shopping in December last year – when the capital was under Tier 4 restrictions
Public Health England admits, “It’s very difficult to find out where people are catching it [Covid]The body also reports where outbreaks of infection (defined by two or more related cases) occur.
Nursing homes and jobs are high on the current list – and Public Health England confirmed that these jobs may include supermarkets, but how many or what percentage is not disclosed.
Outbreaks in supermarkets involving members of the public do not occur. According to recent surveillance reports, around one in 64 Britons – or 1.57 percent of the population – has Covid.
U.S. health chiefs say people vaccinated against Covid will no longer need to self-isolate after exposure to someone infected with the virus.
The main place for transmission, according to all studies, is at home or at work.
Key workers, especially those living in poorer neighborhoods; ethnic minorities; and people in large households are more likely to have it. And 60 percent are completely asymptomatic, according to research by Imperial College London.
The virologist at the Royal Infirmary in Leicester, Dr. Julian Tang, believes supermarkets are an obvious place for infection.
“You are the epicenter of a community and people from all over the city will be there regularly,” says Dr. Tang.
“Social distancing can be difficult in supermarkets, and many have poor ventilation systems, which means the virus can linger in the air.”
He believes he caught Covid in a supermarket last May.
“My wife and I hadn’t been anywhere in human contact for months. And then, after a trip to the supermarket, I got sick and later tested positive. It’s hard to know for sure, but next to someone at that Standing at the cash register, even socially distant and masked, can be a risk as Covid can go through the sides of a mask.
“Cashiers can also be a risk because they come into contact with so many people during their shift. The screens in front of you don’t offer much protection. “
No doubt there will be cases of members of the public picking up Covid from someone who works in a supermarket. However, it is the employees who are most at risk, not the buyers.
Nursing homes and workplaces top the current list of where outbreaks of infection occur – and PHE confirmed that these jobs may include supermarkets (file photo)
A shopper wearing a face mask passes a clipping of a police officer in the window of a Morrisons store in south London this January
Recent research suggests that customer-facing supermarket employees are five times more likely to test positive for the virus than their back-office counterparts.
In the American study, published in the British Medical Journal in October, experts found that three out of five test subjects were asymptomatic.
This, the authors suggested, meant that workers could be a “reservoir” for infection.
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Currently, face masks are mandatory in supermarkets unless you are medically exempt, which provides protection. But could you tell by touching items on shelves?
The World Health Organization explains: “There is no evidence that Covid-19 can be spread through contact with food or food packaging. It is widely believed that Covid-19 is spread from person to person. “
Our own public health guidelines reflect this. But last month the prime minister warned that the coronavirus could be spread through handled goods.
Boris Johnson said, “Not only can this disease be transmitted by standing too close to someone in a supermarket queue, but also by handling something that is touched by an infected person. Hand washing is now more important than ever. “
Dr. Tang is cautious: “The dangers of catching the virus from surfaces were somewhat overrated at the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s definitely possible, but it’s unlikely because the virus particles are inactivated pretty quickly outside the body.”
“Again, wearing a mask is still your best protection because even if you have the virus on your hands, it has to get into your mouth or nose in order to infect you.”
Until the vaccine rollout is complete, there is still a significant risk of the infection rate rising and spiraling out of control again.
Dr. Says Tang, “My biggest concern, however, is that we seem to have stopped limiting the number of people in stores.
People wearing face masks carry their shopping bags outside an Asda supermarket in Birmingham last April
“The virus is still contagious, so we must all be wary of crowded rooms for now.”
The advice on Parks is more reassuring. It was thought that joggers in a park who were breathing hard could emit clouds of the virus if infected. Could this so-called “Covid Slipstream” infect passers-by?
The answer is that, according to Professor Catherine Noakes, an expert on airborne infections at the University of Leeds, it is unlikely that someone would have to cough directly into your face as you inhale for infection to occur.
However, she says that the “Covid Slipstream” poses a danger when you are with someone for a long time. For example, walking right behind a friend for 20 minutes or more.
She added, “The sad fact is that your greatest risk comes from the people you know.”
Some names have been changed.
What is the difference…
… between a virus and a retrovirus?
Viruses are microscopic organisms that can invade another organism and infect it. They are essentially parasites: they cannot survive long outside of a host.
Most common viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, enter the host’s cells and use them to replicate, thereby destroying the cell, causing damage and disease.
Retroviruses like the HIV virus do not destroy the host’s cells, but rather inject their genetic material into them.
This combines with the genetic material already there and turns the cell into a mini-factory where new copies of the retrovirus are pumped out.
Retroviruses can mutate rapidly, with new viral variants existing within a single host. This makes it very difficult to find effective treatments.