Coronavirus: Scientists come up with 275 rules to follow to avoid catching COVID-19

Think social distancing, staying at home and washing your hands is all you need to do to avoid contracting COVID-19? 

Well, scientists in the UK have come up with another 272 things you could be doing to stay safe not just from the coronavirus behind the current pandemic, but future deadly bugs too.

"There's increasing pressure to re-open the economy and get people back to work and out of isolation. But if we return to operating as we did before the pandemic, there will be a second wave of the virus," said study leader Prof William Sutherland of the University of Cambridge.

"All activities will need to be considered individually, and phased back in carefully, depending on the risk they pose to spreading the virus."

The Government is set to reveal on Monday whether we're going to stay in full lockdown a bit longer or loosen the rules a bit. 

At present under alert level 4, non-essential travel is banned, most shops are shut and many of us are working from home. National MP Judith Collins on Monday described level 3 restrictions as "a lot like level 4 but with KFC".

The scientists, from the UK's University of Cambridge and the Centre for Existential Risk, came up with a few more potential rules than that. 

"We have identified 275 options to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in five key areas," the study read.

The five key areas are physical isolation, reducing transmission through contaminated items, enhancing cleaning and hygiene, reducing spread through pets and restricting disease spread between areas. 

"For any particular problem this long list will quickly be winnowed down to a much shorter list of potential options based on relevance and practicality." 

The full list, too long to reproduce here, can be read online. Highlights include: 

  • asking people to walk clockwise around parks, to avoid passing each other
  • having all petrol stations manned by attendants, and paying for your petrol without even leaving the car
  • splitting school classes into smaller groups "with dedicated teachers, who only go into school one week in every three"
  • requiring people to have permits to leave the house
  • have 'minimum spend' rules to discourage infrequent shopping trips, and limit time spent in stores
  • offer free bikes so people don't use public transport, and widen bike lanes
  • ban walking up escalators 
  • turn off background music in shops so people don't have to speak loudly, increasing the chance of virus transmission
  • make plastic bags mandatory for online deliveries
  • get rid of public touch-screen interfaces in favour of voice recognition
  • force workers to bring their own food and utensils from home
  • no more hotdesking
  • make people wear vibrating wristbands that activate whenever they go to touch their face
  • encourage social distancing for "both wild and pet animals".

Many of the ideas, the scientists noted, have come from New Zealand - including banning dangerous swimming, supermarket queue-in-your-car text message systems, mandatory quarantine after international travel and asking people to stay in their household 'bubble'.

"It's basically about how to stop people hanging around together, and phasing in activities starting with the ones that are the safest. Making this happen will be up to the people responsible for every element of society," said Prof Sutherland.

COVID-19 has killed about 150,000 people to date, including nine New Zealanders.