Drivers and parents preparing for the big summer getaway are being urged to wear gloves at the fuel pump to help prevent the spread of more virulent strains of Covid – including BA.4, BA.5 and BA5.1 variants of Omicron – that can be passed on to passengers and children via food.
GripHero, which provides on-the-nozzle gloves, commissioned independent research into forecourt habits at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. This showed that one in five adults filled-up without hand-protection and then passed food to children without sanitising. 73% of adults also admitted that they regularly fill up without using hand-protection, before eating a snack.
With falling levels of vigilance, and rising levels of more easily contracted viruses, the big-summer getaway could see millions of families on the road, travelling large distances, refuelling and eating on the go, magnifying the potential for the spread of transmissible disease.
Concerns about rising levels of coronavirus, which are currently at the highest level ever seen in a summer month, have been echoed by the UK’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dame Jenny Harries, who warned that hospitalisations from the current wave of Covid-19 are likely to rise higher than the previous wave earlier this year.
Studies by Ardabil University of Medical Sciences have shown that 5% of fuel pump handles have Covid-19 present on their surfaces. That equates to at least one contaminated fuel nozzle at every fuel station in the UK. With 2 million motorists refuelling their vehicles on a daily basis, over 100,000 drivers will be coming into contact with fuel nozzles contaminated with Covid. This figure could soar over the coming summer months, as the cost of living crisis has seen a 30% rise in domestic holiday enquiries.
Oli Yeo, inventor of GripHero, commented. “The latest variants of Covid-19 have been shown to be some of the most contagious yet, and are tearing their way across the UK. With a busy summer ahead, and warnings from experts that hospitalisations are yet expected to rise, there’s a need for all of us to take extra precautions.
“The good news is that almost all UK fuel stations provide gloves for the health and safety of their customers. Wearing gloves before you pick up the fuel pump handle forms a physical barrier between your hand and whatever the drivers in front may have left on that surface.
“Given that you’ll be tightly holding a surface that has been gripped by hundreds of other drivers for up to three minutes, we simply ask that drivers ‘glove-up’ to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s the only certain way of stopping the chain of transmission dead in its tracks.”
Oli continued: “But Covid isn’t the only danger to drivers when refuelling. As a rule, fuel nozzles are highly contaminated. They’re home to antibiotic resistant bacteria, Group 1 carcinogens such as benzene, to which there is no safe level of exposure, and of course, notifiable diseases including, but not limited to, Covid. The only way to stay truly safe from these hazards is to wear freely provided gloves, making it a necessary addition to your refuel-routine all year round.”
A 2020 University study, which took 100 samples from 25 forecourts, acknowledged that ‘an individual can get Covid-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and after that touching their own mouth, nose, or conceivably their eyes.’
“You only have to look at drivers in traffic to see how frequently they touch their face, rub their eyes, eat food on the go, or even hand food to their children after refuelling” says Yeo. “That creates a direct path for bacteria, diseases such as Covid, or harmful chemicals if you don’t use gloves when you refuel.
“This one simple act could help to slow the rapidity of the spread of Covid this summer, which can otherwise leap hundreds of miles in a matter of hours and sit secretly on fuel pump handles; a surface which has been proven to be over 11,000 times dirtier than the average toilet seat. It’s a simple step that should become routine and help keep people healthy as they enjoy their summer break.”
GripHero’s recognition that fuel pump handles provide a clear path of transmission led GripHero to dispatch over 50,000 free hand-protection dispensers to forecourts on five continents during the pandemic; protecting an extra 60 million drivers against Covid-19, in addition to the 500 million motorists already protected by GripHero’s on-the-nozzle glove solution.