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Should you wrap and prepare presents when you have Covid?

It’s likely you probably know at least a handful of people with Covid right now.

With so many people coming down with the virus the week before the big day, it’s definitely thrown a spanner in the works for many families. 

And those who have tested positive have been left confined to bedrooms or spare rooms until their 10-day period is up.

If you’re isolating with Covid at the moment, you’re probably looking for things to do to kill time – and wrapping your Christmas gifts seems like a good way to while away some hours.

However, should we really be touching and preparing presents – considering how infectious Covid (and Omicron in particular) is?

Hussain Abdeh, a clinical director and superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct stresses that, on the whole, ‘the risk of passing Covid onto another person via wrapping paper is very small’.

And microbiologist and author Jason Tetro says there should be no problems wrapping presents while you have Covid – and explains why in a little more detail.

Jason says: ‘It comes down to maths and whether or not there will be enough virus surviving the journey from your respiratory tract to another’s.

‘In order to get infected, you need to be exposed to enough virus to cause infection.

‘It’s known as the minimal infective dose. For SARS-CoV-2, it’s about 300 for the original lineage. For Omicron, it may be as low as 50, which would make it similar to that of rhinovirus.

‘When you send viruses into the environment, you tend to have anywhere from 10,000 to 1 million viruses per mL of saliva/respiratory fluid.

‘Larger droplets that will fall on the surface of the package while you wrap it will have about a few hundred to possibly a few tens of thousands viruses in it (20-50 microlitres in a droplet – so divide by about 20-50 times).

‘When that droplet dries, which takes 45 minutes to 2 hours, you will lose about 80-85% of the virus, which is something I used to do in the lab.

‘Then, as this study shows, you will transfer almost 99% less virus from a dry surface to your hands.

‘So even if you have 10,000 viruses in a drop, once it dries, you will probably only be able to transfer about 10 in total, which will be much lower than the minimal infective dose.

‘It really comes down to maths and in this case – even if you are symptomatic and spreading – there’s very little chance you will pass it along to someone through a present.’

Hussain also stresses that it’s always good idea to practice hand hygiene, when it comes to gift wrapping – or doing anything – when sick with any virus.

This includes washing hands for 20 seconds with antibacterial soap or using hand sanitiser before wrapping.

‘If you feel the need to sneeze or cough, step away from the paper, cover your mouth with a handkerchief, and wash/sanitise your hands thoroughly again before you go back to wrapping,’ Hussain adds.

It’s worth pointing out that while the risk of transferring Covid on a gift is incredibly low, you could just wait until you’re out of isolation completely before wrapping any presents – just to stay completely on the safe side.

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