PETROL pumps are a "huge infection risk" for COVID-19 and people should be taking precautions when they refuel, a public health academic says.
Dr Margaret Harris, from the University of Newcastle, had noticed many petrol stations have no infection risk warning, and nothing there for people to protect themselves.
"Petrol pumps - the actual pumps where you put your petrol into your car, are a huge infection risk," she said.
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"It's what we call a hot spot. There are hundreds of people going there, touching the pumps, and then going back to their families and wider communities. And it's not like going into Coles and Woolies where they have sprays and paper towels. There is likely to be nothing.
"When I was at one the other day, there was a paper towel dispenser up in the air and I could pull down the paper towel, wrap it around my hand, put the pump in, and then dispose of the paper towel by letting it fall into an open bin when I was done. All good.
"But I watched four people around me all use their bare hands, and I saw one woman put her fingers straight into her mouth after she'd done it.
"It is a high infection risk, and we really need the community to be aware and highlight this risk."
Dr Harris said she knew of one service station that was offering gloves.
"But with gloves - people don't necessarily know how to use gloves properly, nor dispose of them properly," she said.
"Paper towel will be an effective barrier if it covers your whole hand and it's not wet - it will be compromised if it gets wet, so if the pump is wet or your hand is wet.
"Use hand gel before and after anyway. And just hover your card over the pay wave when you pay."
Dr Harris, who has a background in epidemiology, said what we do in the next two weeks were crucial.
"Particularly now, when we are seeing a little bit of a slow down in new infections, this is the time in most epidemics when people can get a bit complacent and then boom, we see a spike," she said.
"When people are in cars on their own, they are much more likely to not cover their mouth when they sneeze and cough. People pick their nose in their cars. I don't think I am going out on a limb saying that. You're driving, you're singing, you might stop a sneeze, bite your nails, and then you put your hand on the petrol pump.
"It really is a high risk place."
Dr Harris said it was also important to be aware of surfaces like taps and handrails when out exercising, and to get used to not touch our faces.
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