Having a takeaway during lockdown has been one of life's small pleasures over the last year.
But, with the more transmissible Covid-19 variant now in the UK and coronavirus cases at an all-time high leading to the current, strict January lockdown, some people are questioning whether it is even safe to have a takeaway during lockdown at the moment.
At the start of the pandemic, there was concern about how coronavirus could spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects. As stated by Harvard Medical School: “a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”
So, could this apply to takeaway containers? And if so, is it safe to have a takeaway during lockdown? Here is what the experts say:
Is it safe to have a takeaway during lockdown?
The chances are, you’re not going to catch Covid from a takeaway container. So it is safe to have takeaway during lockdown.
This is because, although Covid-19 can spread via infected surfaces, the main way that the virus spreads is via droplets that come from an infected person’s mouth or nose. These are then breathed in by others, causing the spread of the infection. This is why face masks are now compulsory in many settings and why you see some people wearing masks outside.
There is significantly more research suggesting that the virus spreads in this way, rather than via surfaces or transfer of objects – even with the new variant.
This was a concern early on in the pandemic after a study revealed that the virus could last on surfaces for hours, but the claim has since been disputed by experts. They pointed out that the study took place in a lab where there were high doses of the virus and just because the virus was present, didn’t mean it was still infectious.
Even without this, a few boxes would have to be ticked to make the surface a significant threat for infection. In an interview with the New York Times in November, aerosol scientist Dr Linsey Marr said that the virus would “have to be transmitted to the surface in large enough amounts. Then, it would have to survive on that surface until it was touched by someone else. And even if it was eventually transferred to, say, a person’s finger, it would then have to survive on the skin until that person happened to touch an eye or mouth.”
So there’s only a small chance of catching coronavirus from a surface. Although, we can’t rule out surface-to-person transmission entirely – as there’s not really enough evidence yet.
“There’s just a lot more conditions that have to be met for transmission to happen via touching these objects,” as Dr Linsey Marr says.
In addition, reputable restaurants and kitchens already have professional food hygiene regulations in place and takeaway delivery services, like Deliveroo and Just Eat, have put guidance in place during the pandemic to make sure that those delivering the food don’t have to touch any packaging.
In a statement on their website, Deliveroo say, “We’ve enabled a new feature which allows customers to select ‘contact-free delivery’ when they order.
“This means the rider will leave the food at the door, rather than handing over directly. The rider will then step back at least 2 metres and wait nearby for you to collect it.”
Even if this weren’t the case, any risk that droplets had made their way onto the packing could be eliminated by emptying the food from the container onto a clean plate, disposing of the packaging straight away in a bin bag and washing your hands properly afterwards.
For the same reasons and the fact that those delivering are also normally wearing a face mask, supermarket deliveries are considered significantly safer for transmission than a trip out to the high street.
Will takeaways close if lockdown measures are increased?
During the first lockdown and set of restrictions, which were at the most severe they’ve ever been, takeaways and deliveries were still allowed to go ahead.
Currently, the UK is experiencing a higher number of people in hospital than during the first wave and there are more people testing positive than ever before. Yet takeaways have been allowed to continue in England, which suggests they will continue for the next couple of months.
In Scotland, however, tightening of the coronavirus restrictions this week have prevented some features of click-and-collect takeaways. Now anyone looking to get a takeaway in Scotland won’t be allowed inside the restaurant, they’ll have to collect the food from a hatch or the doorway – or have it delivered to their homes.
This could mean that further restrictions are put on restaurants elsewhere in the UK in the coming weeks.