How to Safely Leave Your House During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In general, it is recommended that you not leave your house during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most reasons to leave the house are considered non-essential with the exception of making trips to the hospital for non-elective medical care, pharmacy for essential drugs and shopping to buy groceries. You are advised to not go shopping for unnecessary items such as clothes, shoes, toys etc. during the pandemic.

Below is a guide to grocery shopping and trips to the hospital and pharmacyduring the pandemic:

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE STORE, OPEN mARKET, HOSPITAL OR PHARMACY

1. Do you REALLY need to go?

You are advised to stay home as much as possible. If you need to go shopping limit the number of trips to the grocery store or open market. If you only need a few items, try to get by with what is available at your house and instead do your groceries in one big trip. If at all possible, you are advised to buy and store enough food for a week or two at a time. This will require some prior planning what you will need for the following week or two weeks but it is worth the effort. The same applies for going to the hospital or pharmacy. Going to the hospital, dentist’s office or eye doctor for checkups and other elective visits should be put on hold for now. Similarly, only go to the pharmacy if you need to pick up essential medication.

2. Make a list of things to buy.

Making a list of things to buy or drugs to pick up at the pharmacy allows you to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy infrequently while also letting you spend a minimal amount of time in the store or pharmacy so that neither you, nor other people are exposed to COVID-19.

3. Try grocery shopping and/or food delivery services.

Getting groceries delivered to your house helps reduce the number of people going into stores and touching things, and helps you maintain social distancing. It also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 from people who are infected but don’t show symptoms. Use apps such as Zmall, Deliver Addis, Asbeza or any other online shopping options to have groceries delivered to your house. You can download all of these apps on the Google Play Store. You don’t need to have mobile banking set up to use these services, although that is an option. You can just pay cash when the groceries arrive.

You can also use Zmall and Deliver Addis to have food from different restaurants delivered straight to your house. Here too, you have the option of paying cash on arrival or using mobile banking.

Unfortunately, there is no delivery option for pharmaceutical supplies and there aren’t any hospitals that offer formal telehealth options in Ethiopia.

4. Choose a hospital, pharmacy or grocery store that is taking precautions to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

For instance, look for stores, hospitals and pharmacies that have hand washing stations or disinfectants at the entrance. Most service providing businesses, such as restaurants, banks, malls and grocery stores in Addis currently have hand washing stations outside.

5.Try Going to Stores, Pharmacies and Hospitals at Off-Peak Hours.

Stores, pharmacies and hospitals are usually emptier earlier in the day. While shopping, you are advised to buy as many groceries as you can from one store instead of visiting multiple stores. If there is an upcoming holiday, buy as many of your groceries well before the holiday since the stores will be crowded with holiday shoppers.

6. Leave the house alone.

As much as possible, only one person or as few people as possible should go grocery shopping. This reduces the number of people in your household potentially exposed to COVID-19 but also helps to reduce the number of people inside the grocery store so that everyone can more easily practice social distancing. Leave children and people that are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 at home.

This also applies to going to the hospital or pharmacy. As few people as possible should go to the hospital or pharmacy.

7. Travel Alone

While travelling to and from the hospital, store or pharmacy, use your own car if possible. If you do not have access to a personal car, try walking. If walking is not possible, use public transportation during off-peak hours and maintain social distancing as much as possible.

8. Don't Leave the House If You Have Symptoms:

It’s very important to stay home and practice social distancing at home if you are experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath, or if you think you have been exposed to the virus. If you need to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, ask a friend, family member or someone else to get them and leave them outside your home. 

If you need to go to the hospital, make sure you take all the necessary precautions such as wearing a mask at all times, coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbows, not touching your face and sanitizing or washing your hands often and thoroughly.

 

AT THE HOSPITAL, PHARMACY OR STORE

1. Sanitize Your Hands Often

Use hand sanitizer before entering the hospital, store or pharmacy and after leaving it. Try to touch as few things as possible while at the store including your personal effects. If you touch your phone or other personal effects, sanitize them upon leaving the store, pharmacy or hospital. 

2. Cover Your Nose and Mouth with a Mask

It is recommended that all people wear cloth face masks in public places. If you do not have a mask, cover your nose and mouth with some other cloth such as a scarf. Make sure you wear the mask appropriately. You can find information on proper mask wearing and removal here. Covering your face with a mask will reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. Cloth face masks should be worn even while practicing social distancing.

3. Practice Physical Distancing:

As with any public setting, you should maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from other people. This may be difficult to do in open markets which tend to have crowded stalls but try your best. Hospital waiting room chairs may not be spaced out enough to maintain a 2-meter distance from all people around you, in this case you may need to stand in a corner of the waiting room or even outside.

4. Do Not be Afraid to Ask Others to Step Back if They are Standing too Close to You in Line.

Most stores and pharmacies have lines showing where people should stand while waiting in line to pay for the items they want to buy. However, people may not maintain a 2-meter distance when walking in the aisles of grocery stores or pharmacies or may not maintain a 2-meter distance at the hospital. If this is the case, do not let your sense of decorum “yilugnta” hold you back. You are protecting not just yourself but others too.

 

5. Clean Surfaces.

Most stores, hospitals and pharmacies in Addis Ababa do not offer sanitizing wipes. Therefore, it is advised that you take your own hand sanitizer to wipe down commonly touched surfaces that you come into contact with such as the handles of baskets or trolleys at grocery stores and pens used for filling out forms at the hospital. If possible, take your own pen.

6. Assume that All Surfaces Have Been Touched by Someone.

 Although, some surfaces such as supermarket basket handles, door handles and elevator buttons may pose a bigger risk than other surfaces, you should assume that all surfaces have been touched by someone who is sick. This includes produce, packaged foods, drugs, seats etc.

6. Touch Only What You Plan to Buy.

In addition to being transmitted from one person to another, coronavirus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Therefore, you should refrain from touching anything unless you need to. This means that when you are at the pharmacy, you should try to avoid picking up items that you do not plan to buy and touching produce to check for ripeness at the store or open market.

7. You Don’t Need to Wear Gloves.

Wearing gloves when you go outside isn’t necessary because the gloves can become contaminated the same way your hands can and you are less likely to wash your gloves than your hands. Rather, it is better to wash or sanitize your hands before and after entering pharmacies, hospitals and stores. However, if you choose to wear gloves, use disposable ones and discard them as soon as you leave.

 

8. Don't Touch Your Face.

In addition to being transmitted from one person to another, coronavirus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Therefore, you should refrain from touching anything unless you need to. This means that when you are at the pharmacy, you should try to avoid picking up items that you do not plan to buy and touching produce to check for ripeness at the store or open market.

9. Cover Your Mouth and Nose When You Sneeze or Cough.

Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow or use a tissue in addition to always wearing a face mask or some sort of cloth face covering when outside.

WHEN YOU GET HOME

1. Wash Your Hands.

You should wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after getting home and after handling food or drug packaging. You can also take additional precautionary measures by washing your face when you get home to reduce the risk of transferring any viral particles that may have landed on your face to your eyes, nose or mouth.

2. How Big of a Risk are Groceries and Drugs you Bring Home?

Your biggest risk while out is coming into close contact with another person who is sick. If however, you are concerned about potential contamination of your items you bring back from the store, pharmacy or hospital, you can take the below steps to protect yourself.

  • You can wipe or wash cans and boxes of food and drugs as soon as they enter your house, before they come into contact with anything else to reduce possible virus content. Don’t forget to sanitize the surface upon which you have placed the items that you brought in from outside.
  • You can throw out disposable packaging such as plastic bags and transfer the food or drugs to a clean bag or container as soon as you get home. If you use a woven basket bag “zembil” or cloth bags, wipe down the whole surface with sanitizer. Cloth bags can also be washed inside a washing machine using soap and water.
  • Some people suggest leaving groceries, prescription papers and drugs outside for at least 72 hours to allow the virus to become inactive. Do not however forget to store perishable food items such as dairy or medicine that has to be stored in a cool place at the proper temperature to prevent spoiling.
  • Wash your hands after unpacking and putting away your groceries.

3. Rinse Water Proof Items.

It is good to rinse fresh fruit and vegetables with water to remove dirt, debris and pesticides, and reduce levels of foodborne germs. You can also rinse water proof containers for medicine, hair products, canned foods etc. If you rinse  your fruits and vegetables with soap and water, make sure to rinse them completely with clean water before storing. Some people suggest scrubbing fruits and vegetables for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

4. Do Clothes Worn Outside Require Special Precautionary Measures?

The average trip to the hospital, pharmacy or store shouldn’t require washing as soon as you get home. However, if you haven’t been able to maintain a safe social distance from others or, even worse, someone has coughed or sneezed in your direction, washing those clothes is a good idea. But, in general, you should prioritize keeping hands clean, not touching your face and wearing a face mask over washing clothes. However, if you are taking care of or often near someone with COVID-19, washing your clothes frequently is necessary. You should wash your clothes as you normally do with soap and water.

5. Are Shoes a Potential Contaminant?

Some people think it is important to take additional precautionary measures by cleaning your shoes as soon as you get home or leaving your shoes by the door.

6. Pay Using ATM cards at POS Machines or Instead of Going to Banks

COVID-19 doesn’t spread by penetrating skin. However, coronavirus can be transferred from your hand to openings like your eyes, nose and mouth and infect you with COVID-19. That being said, there are no known cases of Covid-19 transmission from banknotes or coins. Moreover, washing your hands after touching cash or other objects may help to reduce the risk of transmission. Moreover, it is there is not enough evidence to know for certain if transmission from cash is significant compared to person-to-person transmission or transmission through other objects or physical proximity.

 

7) Can Coronavirus be Transmitted Through Banknotes and Coins?

In addition to being transmitted from one person to another, coronavirus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Therefore, you should refrain from touching anything unless you need to. This means that when you are at the pharmacy, you should try to avoid picking up items that you do not plan to buy and touching produce to check for ripeness at the store or open market.

Special Considerations for Condominium Residents

  1. Since there are frequent disruptions in water supply in condominiums and some apartments, especially higher floors, it is advised that residents stock up on extra water, bleach, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol and other cleaning materials.
  2. Condominiums and some apartments have common areas for hand-washing clothes. Residents are reminded to take extra precaution to maintain social distancing in these common areas.
  3. Residents who have maids who do not live with the family are advised to make sure that their maids practice social distancing while inside the home while wearing a mask at all times and washing their hands before and after entering the house.
  4. Now more than ever, car owners have to refrain from having their cars washed by boys on the street. This is especially true of having the inside of their cars washed. Car owners should try to wash their cars themselves or have their maids wash their cars making sure that the maid is wearing a mask if she is not a live-in maid.