Many countries have instructed their elderly population to stay at home because of COVID-19. Young people like myself are starting to volunteer to help deliver food and other supplies.

But given asymptomatic transmission and virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces, how I can make sure I don't accidentally do more harm than good?

Is it enough to use hand sanitizer before I go to the store, then again use hand sanitizer when I unload the grocery bags from my car, and make sure I keep several meters of space between me and the person I deliver to? Should I wear a mask? Gloves?

I'm guessing most older people will want to pay in cash. Is it possible to decontaminate change (coins, bills), or is it safer to only accept exact payment?

2 Answers 2


The official position of the WHO is that main mechanism of disease transmission is by droplet infection onto mucosal surfaces, or, transfer of those droplets by hand to those surfaces. There is also data to suggest aerosols are generated in close proximity to infected people by coughing or mechanical means such as toilet flushing but we do not know how viable the virus is when spread in that way.

Hand sanitizer and washing is primarily before eating to stop that virus transfer.

If you're visiting someone whom you don't know, then you need some PPE as a mask and goggles in case they cough directly in close proximity to you. If you can't buy this, then there are DIY recipes to make masks and plastic shields.

You can spray the outside packaging with a bleach solution to sterilize it if there's a possibility that it was contaminated at source, or the recipient can do that.

I'd suggest you use a non-contact form of payment, such as WeChat, or whatever else is available. Avoid handling of cash/coins.


If any stumbles across this question, I found this great resource: https://wiki.queercare.network/index.php?title=Delivering_items_to_someone_in_self_isolation_protocol

  • 1
    The reality is that the majority of infection has been by air droplets directly reaching the facial orifices. Mar 20, 2020 at 21:17
  • Would that be an argument that disinfecting each item individually is perhaps energy that could be better spent elsewhere? Mar 20, 2020 at 22:38
  • You're going to make it so tiresome that people won't do this. And perhaps this procedure lacks evidence that it is even necessary Mar 20, 2020 at 22:52
  • Thanks Graham, yes I'm having a hard time finding clear guidelines on contact-based transmission, in clinical conditions it seems that the virus can stay on surfaces for several days, but I'd assume that's much lower in real-world conditions. And I agree, making volunteers mix bleach solution to spray goods is probably too much friction. Mar 22, 2020 at 13:53

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