Behavioural psychologists from the University of Bath are reminding people of the simple things they can do at home to help reduce infection spread this Christmas.
As people make plans to spend time indoors with their friends and family for a limited period over Christmas, the behavioural psychologists are urging them not to become complacent about the virus risk and reminding everyone of the importance of germ defence.
A team from the universities of Bath, Bristol and Southampton, who developed the ‘Germ Defence’ app, say with the prospect of a limited, shared Christmas and a vaccine now being rolled out, we cannot afford to let our guard down in allowing COVID-19 to spread.
Germ Defence, the only web-based advice in the world that’s been scientifically proven to work against respiratory infections, has been designed to give personalised advice on how to protect members of a household from infection.
This year, the app was redeveloped for Covid-19, most recently in view of guidance for the Christmas period.
This includes suggestions on reducing the virus risk at home in preparation by moving seating to enable social distancing, by keeping rooms well ventilated and by ensuring that surfaces are regularly cleaned.
After visitors leave, it suggests cleaning surfaces but also leaving the windows open for at least one hour.
Germ Defence helps users make decisions and set goals that will work for them to reduce the levels of virus in the home.
The results of a previous Lancet study of over 20,000 people highlighted that Germ Defence was shown to reduce the spread of swine flu and seasonal flu.
People who followed its advice were less likely to catch flu or other viruses and less likely to pass it on to members of their household.
Dr Ben Ainsworth, from the University of Bath, who is leading the adaptation of Germ Defence for Covid-19, explained: “Lots of people will be looking forward immensely to seeing their family at Christmas, and making difficult decisions about how to do it safely.
“However, spending time inside with people means that it is now more important than ever not to let our guard down on essential germ defence within the home.
“Many of the methods to reduce levels of virus are simple, and will take seconds or a few short minutes, but we know they can make a real difference in how the virus spreads.”
The app recently reached a milestone of 250,000 users and was included within Public Health England’s guidelines for people self-isolating at home.
Professor Lucy Yardley from the University of Bristol, who led the development of Germ Defence, said: “Many people don’t realise that there are things they can do quite easily that will really reduce the risk of spreading the virus when family and friends visit over Christmas.
“Germ Defence can help everyone and includes advice on what to do if someone in the household is infected or could become very ill if they are infected.”
Germ Defence is available in more than 25 languages via https://www.germdefence.org/.