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Empty Melbourne tram
Photograph: Creative Commons

Take a moment to hold on: How to be safe and hygienic on Melbourne public transport

Here are some tips and tricks to staying safe on trains, buses and trams right now

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“Take a moment to hold on” is what the pre-recorded announcement on trams says, over and over, ad nauseam. But what if you’d rather not hold on or you’re worried about getting sick on public transport? As of now, premier Daniel Andrews is still encouraging Melburnians to work from home and avoid unnecessary trips. But for some, taking public transport is a necessity. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re next riding a Melbourne tram, train or bus. 

Stay at home if you’re sick

It’s an obvious one but it bears repeating – do not travel when you are feeling ill. Even if it’s just a scratchy throat, go and get tested. There are numerous places around Melbourne where you can get a test – here are just some

Everything is cashless now

To keep everyone safe, Myki machines or PTV help desks will no longer be receiving cash. Instead, you will need to top up your Myki or pay for regional train and coach tickets with your credit or debit card or by topping up online

RECOMMENDED: How to pause your Myki or get your money refunded while at home

PTV has increased cleaning

Staff have increased cleaning on all PTV services and they’re paying particular attention to “the places passengers spend the most time”. So high-touch surfaces like stop buttons, door handles, Myki machines, handrails and grab straps are now receiving regular deep cleaning every night. 

Where is safest to touch?

If those high-touch services are only cleaned at night, it’s best to avoid touching them at all. But, as many Melburnians know, trams stop suddenly, buses take tight corners fast and it’s hard to steady yourself without needing to hold on to something. Unless you have an iron core, you’re going to need to hold on. The main thing here isn’t where to touch, but what you do once you’ve touched. You can hold on (you really should hold on, to avoid falling over) but you should not use the same hand to touch your face. Bringing germs closer to your face increases the risk of you getting sick. 

Masks and gloves – yea or nay?

Should you consider wearing a mask or wearing gloves then? Unlike many other countries, Australia has not adopted widespread mask usage in public spaces. According to the president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control and associate professor at Monash University, Philip Russo, wearing a mask is only “one form of armoury” against the spread of the virus, and won’t offer any protection on its own. “When we see pictures of people wearing masks in public, they tend to be ‘chin-slings’”, says Russo. “The general public doesn’t know how to take masks off properly so they don’t contaminate themselves.”

So unless you’ve received training in properly putting on and taking off a mask in order for it to be at its most effective, don’t expect wearing one to totally protect you from the spread of the virus. The same goes for gloves – if you’re wearing gloves, do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth. Otherwise, it would be the same result as if you weren’t wearing them at all. 

RECOMMENDED: How do you protest while staying physically distant? We asked an expert.

Consider standing next to a door or a window

Choose a spot to stand or sit that offers good airflow, like near a door or an open window. That way there’s a more regular exchange of air and you’re not breathing in stale air. But please remember the cardinal rule of public transport travel – don’t clog the doorway when others need to get off. Be kind and be smart here people. 

Stagger your travel if you can

If you work in an industry where you need to commute for work, try to adjust your working hours to less busy times if you can. Consider doing a few hours of work at home then coming in to the office later in the day, or even working a few days at home and some in the office. Obviously this can’t work for many people and many industries. Another option is to try to allow extra time in your commute in case you need to wait for a less crowded train, tram or bus. 

Clean your hands A LOT

Surfaces are now your worst enemy so as soon as you’re off public transport, whip out your hand sanitiser or wash your hands with soap for twenty seconds.

Practice your vampire sneeze

If you do need to cough or sneeze in public do it into the crook of your elbow. People will no doubt give you evil eyes for even opening your mouth (remember: not everyone who sneezes has a virus, some people are just allergic to dust!) but if you reduce the amount of spit that projects outwards into the general public, you’ve earned brownie points from us. Here’s info on why it’s better to sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand. 

Be safe out there, Melbourne: here's how to properly practice physical distancing

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