Farmers should consider disinfecting latches on gates to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus from walkers using public footpaths, says a leading microbiologist.
Walking in the countryside is proving to be one of the most popular ways to exercise during the government Coronavirus lockdown and has seen a big increase in the number of people using footpaths.
Some farmers – including those with elderly relatives – have called for footpaths to be closed near farmhouses and through farmyards. But others say doing so would send the wrong message to the public, at a time when many places are closed for recreation.
Professor Mark Fielder, of Kingston University London, suggested the risk of catching the virus from walkers was low. But farmers might still like to use a 1% bleach solution on gate locks and catches – and other places where people put their hands – before opening them.
There was not much of a risk from a walker sneezing and the virus landing on the ground, said Prof Fielder. But it was still important to abide by the government’s social distancing guidelines, and keep at least 2m away from walkers and other non-family members.
“As long as farmers are maintaining that distance and members of the public, they should be absolutely fine,” he said. Farmers could also put up signs and clearly delineate the edge of a footpath from the rest of the farmyard to maintain the 2m social distancing rules.