Question & Answer

Does the use of petrol pumps spread COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) rapidly?

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  • In mid-March 2020, claims circulated on social media saying that using of petrol pumps increased the risk of being infected with Covid-19 (coronavirus disease).
  • The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS CoV-2 is a new virus and we are still learning a lot about how it behaves. It is not certain how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces, but a recent study found that the coronavirus that can cause COVID-19 illness can survive for up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel.
  • Petrol pumps are a hard surface, usually made of a type of plastic. Any surface that is frequently handling by different people is at risk of being contaminated. There is no evidence that petrol pumps are more or less likely to become contaminated than any other hard, plastic surface that is handled frequently.
  • Public Health England have stated that ‘Petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces, although we do recommend people use gloves and wash their hands after using them.’
  • Therefore, there is no high quality evidence that petrol pumps pose any more or less risk than other hard, plastic surfaces.
  • When a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, there is potential for them to pick up the virus. This is why it is important to wash hands properly and frequently, and to thoroughly clean surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please follow public health advice and wash your hands properly and often.
  • The major transmission route for COVID-19 is via droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on others nearby – this is why following the advice on physical distancing is so important.

Things to Remember

Reviewers

  • Drafted by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Dr Tom Conway, HRB Clinical Research Facility HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
  • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, School of Nursing and Midwifery and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
  • Evidence Advisor: Prof Dearbháile Morris School of Medicine, and Centre for One Health, NUI Galway.
  • Evidence Advisor (public): Tom Conway, Public Evidence Advisor
  • Evidence Advisor (Journalistic): Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.