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Support hard-working Big Issue vendors throughout the coronavirus crisis

Research shows that the risk of catching the virus from cash or clothing is low. We know that efforts to contain the virus are likely to hit footfall on the streets, but please look out for your local Big Issue vendor!

Vendor CREDIT: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

While more people stockpile and self-isolate, our vendors will still be out on the street selling The Big Issue. Here’s why you shouldn’t be worried about coming into contact with your regular vendor.

The current guidance issued by the NHS is clear on how best to protect yourself. One of the guidelines is to avoid high-touch surfaces, and included in that is, obviously, money. While many of our vendors use card machines to accept contactless payments, cash is still crucial, but the risk of the virus being transmitted via money is small.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, an expert in infection at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh said “coins are actually very bad environments for viruses to survive,” adding that bank notes should also be fine “unless someone is using a bank note to sneeze in,” which nobody is recommending.

In general, viruses such as cold and flu survive better on non-porous surfaces, such as metal or plastic. On porous surfaces like clothing, paper and tissues, the survival time is much shorter, eight-12 hours compared to one-two days, so you’re unlikely to catch it from our magazines, and it’s unlikely to survive on gloves – often worn by Big Issue vendors at this time of year.

However, even if the coronavirus were living on a high-touch surface – a door handle, for example – that’s also no huge cause for concern. According to Cornell University professor Gary Whittaker, the virus is relatively easy to destroy, with a simple disinfectant nearly guaranteed to render it harmless.

Companies and businesses are also stepping in to help the public through the crisis. Edinburgh café Piecebox have moved to reassure their customers by sanitising their door handles and card machines every hour, as well as putting out anti-bacterial wipes. Lush have become the first major brand to offer their help by inviting people to use their shops to wash their hands. The company said: “Since we’re universally known as ‘that soap shop’, from Friday February 28 we’re using our shop windows to promote the hand-washing guidelines as advised by the NHS in the UK and other public health organisations around the world.

“We know there are practicalities to being able to wash hands when out and about…We thought that offering our shops gives somewhere for the public to do this without having to seek out public toilets…there will be no requirement to purchase anything.”

Fake news isn’t helping when it comes to reassuring the public, with conflicting statements over everything from survival rates to symptoms rife. In Singapore, this is being combated through a collaboration between WhatsApp and the Singaporean Government, with daily updates sent via the service combating misinformation. WhatsApp are already in talks with health ministries in 15 other countries, and have said additional partnerships could be launched this week.

We understand that if the coronavirus causes footfall on streets to decline, or if more people begin working from home, this will have an impact on our hard-working vendors who rely on selling the magazine to make a living. In this event, we are working on contingencies to mitigate any loss of earnings they may experience. However, right now it’s business as usual, so support your local vendor by buying this week’s Ben Eine Art Takeover Special magazine. And the new edition of The Big Issue magazine will be on sale around the UK, on the streets, from Monday.

Image: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

Support our vendors this winter and beyond

If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.
Vendor martin Hawes

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