How does the virus spread? Will I catch the virus from handling money?

Infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong Hoe Nam answers some commonly-asked questions on the coronavirus.

Click here for part II of Dr Leong's Q&A.


What you need to know about COVID-19

How does COVID-19 spread?

Much like familiar cold viruses or influenza, COVID-19 spreads primarily by respiratory droplets, which come out through saliva or when we sneeze. It is not in the air.

How can we distinguish between COVID-19 symptoms and the regular flu?

It its very difficult – the usual symptoms (e.g. fever, sore throat, cough, headache) are very similar to influenza and the regular cold.

Is it possible to contract COVID-19 from someone who is not showing symptoms?

Those with no symptoms are less likely to have nasal discharge or cough, and are hence less likely to transmit the virus. In truth, we suspect the actual risk to be very low.

How deadly is COVID-19?

The mortality rate stands at 2%, but as we do not have the full number of people who are sick, including the milder cases, this could be an inflated figure.

What treatments exist to help COVID-19 patients?

Most of the time, supportive care (i.e. adequate hydration, food and oxygen when needed) will work for more than 90% of patients.


How it affects your daily routine

Should I avoid public spaces like hawker centres?

When communal spread starts, I will still support my favourite hawker, but I will not loiter. Go out, do what you need to do, and go back home, and all will be fine.

Should I handle common objects like money?

If you handle money, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water before you touch your face.

Should I avoid places where confirmed/suspect cases have been?

No, ironically, as those places would have been cleaned thoroughly, they would be one of the cleanest spots in Singapore. We can trust the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and NEA to thoroughly clean the area. For NEA’s guidelines for cleaning, read more here

Is my online shopping package safe to handle?

When the packages travel, even through Wuhan, the long process and exposure to the sun would have destroyed the virus.

Should I be worried if I live near a quarantine site?

No. The virus can only spread by droplets. The virus does not go into the air. You cannot breathe it in.

Should I avoid private-hire vehicles and taxis?

As I enter the vehicle, I would request for the windows to be wound down. This way, air is allowed to move in and out of the vehicle, which would quickly dilute the virus and make it negligible.


Protecting yourself

How can I protect myself from the virus?

Wash with your hands with soap and water before touching your face. If you are unwell, put on a surgical mask.


How does washing hands help?


We may inadvertently touch our eyes, nose or mouth, even while wearing a mask. Keeping our hands clean will protect our face. 


Are hand sanitisers useful?


Yes, use alcohol-based hand sanitisers on your hands and dry them thereafter. However, refrain from using wipes, as they tend to spread germs around.


What can businesses do?


Consider if you can split the staff into 2 groups, so that they do not meet at all. Try to allow staff to work remotely, and minimise contact with clients as far as possible.