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Government ignores simple solution to stop the spread of COVID-19 at the fuel pump

June 8, 2021 | News

Lack of action means over 18,000 drivers risk coming into contact with COVID-19 every day

Calls to mandate the public use of hand-protection on the forecourt to stop the spread of increasingly contagious strains of COVID-19, including the new Indian variant, have fallen on deaf ears in Government.

Proposed in a direct letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 08 March 2021, the simple step to stem the spread of coronavirus, by making hand-protection compulsory when motorists refuel, failed to receive a response. As a result, up to to 18,760* drivers could be coming into contact with COVID-19, picked up from fuel pump handles each and every day, that could otherwise be avoided. At the height of the pandemic, this figure is calculated to have been up to 378,000 drivers every day.

Oli Yeo, Managing Director of GripHero, which gave away on-the-nozzle hand-protection dispensers free to forecourts internationally at the height of both the first and second wave of coronavirus, specifically to protect drivers, sent letters to the Department of Health and Social Care, the Chief Medical Officer, Matt Hancock and Conservative MPs.

Commenting on the lack of response, Mr Yeo said: “We find it astonishing that a simple way to protect millions of drivers is being ignored. So many forecourts offer hand-protection, but if customers fail to use it, they stand a very real chance of contracting illnesses from other drivers that have held the same surface for 2-3 minutes.

“If motorists have to wear hand-protection when refuelling, that instantly prevents the potential for COVID-19 being passed on from the hand of one driver to the next via the fuel pump handle. It also protects drivers from contracting other illnesses, and from coming into contact with biohazards, chemicals and carcinogens.”

Yeo added: “The Government’s initiative of ‘Building back better’ should surely look at the learning points of the coronavirus pandemic and prepare the country to deal with further variants that could be more transmissable. That includes avoiding high touchpoints where disease can be easily transferred.

“As drivers increasingly travel across the country following the easing of restrictions, transmission of more virulent strains from one area to another becomes more likely. People already wear masks, and yet cases continue to rise. There needs to be a circuit-breaker in this high contact-point area, which is exactly what hand-protection provides.

“Surely now is the time to take action and to make a change that will safeguard drivers and their families. By adopting this quick, simple and immediately implementable measure, the Government would not only aid their future disease prevention and control strategies, but would also enable the UK’s fuel retail network to become the safest in the world.”

The worrying facts:

  • Infections and admissions have leapt by 20 per cent week on week, with the Indian variant now dominant and accounting for up to 75 per cent of the new cases
  • On 26 May there were 3,180 new cases of coronavirus – the highest since April 12
  • 43 per cent of adults have had both jabs. More than half are yet to receive their second jab. A quarter of adults are yet to have their first vaccine
  • The Indian variant of Covid-19 – B.1 .617 .2 – was detected in 151 local authorities in the week ending 15 May. That is an 18 per cent weekly increase, according to figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute which sequences a random sample of positive tests in the community
  • The government advisory body SAGE believes there is a “realistic possibility” that the transmissibility of the Indian variant could be 50 per cent higher
  • Cases of the variant have doubled within a week – to 6,959 cases up to 26 May, a rise of 3,535 on the previous week’s figures
  • Covid deaths are up 14 per cent week on week – reversing the recent falling trend
  • Fuel nozzles are highly contaminated surfaces, containing pathogens that cause diseases (such as influenza, pneumonia and indeed Coronavirus).
  • Research shows that fuel pump nozzles are 11,000 times dirtier than the typical toilet seat
  • On average, individuals hold fuel pumps for 2-3 minutes when refuelling, touching a surface used by hundreds of drivers who may have illnesses that are transmisable
  • Few drivers wash their hands before or after refuelling (facilities do not exist to do so easily)
  • Common in-car habits include consuming food, touching the eyes, nose and mouth, and handling other vehicle surfaces and personal devices, enhancing the potential to contract viruses
  • Stats from forecourtsshow that 70% of drivers are currently not wearing hand-protection when refuelling
  • An independent survey of over 2,000 drivers, conducted in October 2020 showed that 73% of adults filled up without using hand-protection and went on to consume food* 
  • The average forecourt has 350 customers per day. Given that1 in 1,110 (latest ONS data, 21 May 2021) in England have one of the strains of coronavirus, up to 18,760 drivers have the potential to come into contact with Covid at high touch-point fuel pumps every day
  • At the height of the pandemic, when 1 in 55 carried Covid, up to 378,000drivers could have come into contact with Covid contaminated fuel pump handles every day, without using hand-protection
  • Only by using hand-protection to prevent contact with surfaces touched by others is the potential for exposure, contamination and spread of pathogens completely prevented
  • Unless mandated, hand-protection does not have to be worn at forecourts
  • Hand sanitiser is not a ‘cure’ and has other related health issues of its own***

GripHero is the maker of the world’s only static-safe hand-protection and on-the-nozzle dispensers for fuel pumps. It is the only hand-protection system permitted within the fuelling zone internationally, as it uses ATEX certified anti-static materials which block static discharge sparks between drivers and fuel equipment, removing all chance of fuel vapour ignition at the pump.

GripHero’s dispensers allow ‘contactless’ refuelling as drivers can withdraw a single piece of untouched hand-protection from bay-mounted and on-the-nozzle dispensers. These dispensers are currently available on 70% of all forecourts on the UK motorway network and can be found on forecourts across the UK and on five continents.