Your COVID Essentials survival kit can cost up to $5.32 a day

By Sophie Al-Bassam |

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Personal protective equipment used to be only for certain professions like healthcare workers. But with the rapid spread of COVID-19, you may be wondering if it’s time to buy some protective gear yourself.

Here’s our guide to commonly used safety items and if they are worth your money. You can be as safe as possible in gloves, masks, four wipes and a hand sanitiser for $5.32 a day.

Face masks and face shields

All Victorians must now wear a face covering when they leave home. Nationally, it’s recommended that you wear a face mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible, like at the shops or on public transport. Sound annoying? Maybe, but face masks could reduce COVID-19 transmission by up to two-thirds.

There are no strict rules about what that face covering looks like. It could be a fancy medical-grade mask, an ethically made mask or you can even make your own mask with three layers of cloth.

While P2 and N95 masks are specially designed to filter out particles, they are not needed for community use. Ideally they’d be used by the healthcare workers who really need them.

What’s important is how it fits and how it’s used. Your mask must cover your mouth and nose and have no holes. It must have a snug fit.

Masks can be uncomfortable to wear but try not to adjust them or touch your face while wearing one. Wash your hands before you put it on and after you take it off.

Disposable masks can be cheap and hassle-free – for example Chemist Warehouse sells a 50 pack of single use masks for $60, which is only $1.20 a mask.

Reusable cloth masks cost around $23 plus delivery. They should have at least two layers, but ideally three layers to be more effective.

Face shields can be worn in addition to a mask, though you’re more likely to see them worn by healthcare professionals.

How to use masks

Gloves

We’re not sure how long COVID-19 can last on surfaces, but it could be up to a few days, depending on the surface and the environment it’s in.

You can wear gloves for extra protection when you’re out. But given we’re not used to wearing them, they may not be as helpful as you think. The minute you touch your face or phone with gloves on, they are useless. And you must remove gloves carefully, too. Throw out gloves after each use and wash your hands before and after use.

If you do decide to use gloves, they won’t set you back too much. A 100 pack of gloves from Chemist Warehouse is only $11 – that’s only 22 cents a pair. But unless you have a specific reason to use them, it’s cheaper to just wash your hands frequently.

It is however, a good idea to wear gloves when cleaning at home or if you’re caring for someone who’s sick.

Hand sanitiser

If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, like when you’re buying groceries, then hand sanitiser comes to the rescue. Just make sure it’s 60–80 per cent alcohol.

A large 750ml Ozguard hand sanitiser from Woolworths costs $15 while a handy pocket size 30ml Thankyou hand sanitiser costs just $3.50. If you think you’ll be moving through a lot of hand sanitiser in the coming months, you can buy in bulk and save. A whopping 5 L carton of 2Pure Instant hand sanitiser costs $129 from Officeworks.

Antibacterial sprays and wipes

It’s not just your hands you’ll want to keep clean though. You may also want to keep clean items at home, such as your kitchen bench or door handles.

You can use surface wipes, but it’s not the most economical approach. Soap and water or surgical spirits will both work on surfaces. And regular household disinfectants can also be used, just follow the instructions. You may already have these at home, so you may not need to go and buy anything extra.

Kogan is selling wipes at $40 for four 120-wipe packs.

For devices, get a screen protector that will be easier to clean than the device itself.

While there are lots of products to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, hand washing and physical distancing remain our first, and free, line of defence.

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