In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it may have been obvious why using a finger covering when accessing touch screens such as ATMs and ticket machines made sense, particularly for those whose underlying health conditions made them more vulnerable to the disease.
However, some may wonder if that remains the case now, when the threat appears to have declined greatly.
Indeed, so much has Covid receded in the news that even the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 5th that the disease was no longer being listed as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) barely registered amid headlines about local elections and the Coronation.
All this was despite the fact that the virus was first listed at a PHEIC by the same body on January 30th 2020, around a month after international knowledge of the outbreak in China first arose. It has been a PHEIC almost all the time that the world has known the virus existed.
On the face of it, the reasoning behind the decision is very sound. The number of deaths and infections continues to fall. Despite various media scares, most recently about the ‘Arcturus’ variant, there is no sign of anything accelerating the threat. Vaccination rates are high in most countries, especially in more developed nations.
However, while all that may mean the threat is currently low, the WHO did warn that countries needed to remain vigilant, continue to monitor for variants, and that if the situation changed, such as a dangerous new strain emerging, it would be prepared to reinstate the PHEIC status.
Furthermore, another reason to remain alert and continue to take precautions, especially for those with underlying health conditions and compromised immune systems, is that the remaining threat is far from negligible.
For example, the most recent case data in England has shown all the metrics heading in the right direction. But even so, in the week to May 1st, 3,318 Covid patients were admitted to hospital.
While Covid is not liable to put tens of thousands in hospital or cause hundreds of deaths a day anymore, nor has it gone away.