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'There are logistical challenges, especially for carpooling' - AA gives advice amid coronavirus pandemic


AA consumer affairs director Conor Faughnan. Photo: Damien Eagers

AA consumer affairs director Conor Faughnan. Photo: Damien Eagers

AA consumer affairs director Conor Faughnan. Photo: Damien Eagers

Motorists and passengers should stay away from each other as much as possible when on the road – even though it’s not an ideal situation, according to the AA.

As Tanaiste Simon Coveney and other Government ministers continue to stress the urgent need for people to practice social distancing when out and about to reduce the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus, the AA’s Director of Consumer Affairs Conor Faughnan is reminding people of the need to avoid others as much as possible – even in the car.

But due to the confined nature of most vehicles, maintaining the recommended social distance of two metres – or 6.5 feet – may be impossible, he said.

“It’s not ideal,” he told Independent.ie.

While sharing a car with family members or others living in the same domestic unit may pose the same level of risk of transmission as at home, people need to think twice about offering others lifts, he said.

“It presents logistical challenges, especially for people who car pool,” he said.

But if travel is unavoidable, people should try to sit as far away from each other as possible in the car – ie diagonally seated away from the driver in the back seat - and keep a window open, he said.

“It’s something you need to be cautious about. Treat it (the car) as any other environment.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association, representing Ireland’s petrol retailers and forecourts, has moved to dispel erroneous rumours circulating on social media today that petrol pumps have become breeding grounds for Covid-19.

Touching the hand-held pumps pose no more risk than touching any other surface, said Kevin McPartlan, the chief executive of the IPIA.

He stressed that customers should follow normal handwashing protocol and use gloves if possible when touching the pumps.

“IPIA member companies have introduced enhanced hygiene procedures, increased the regularity with which fuel pump handles are cleaned and are making gloves available for customers," he said.

"We all must follow HSE advice on regular hand washing or sanitising and we suggest customers do that before and after using a pump – just as they would when handling any other hard surface with which many people may have had physical contact,” he added.

However some retailers are reporting thefts of gloves and hand sanitisers from forecourts, which Mr Faulknan slammed as “really tacky behaviour.”

“People need to show more maturity than that,” he said of the minority of people engaging in such selfish behaviour.

Meanwhile, motorists who are due to have their vehicles inspected by the National Car Test (NCT) can continue to have them inspected, according to a spokeswoman for Applus which administers the NCT nationwide.

“In terms of the NCTS call centre and test centres, they are both fully operational,” she said.

However, she said callers to the centres may have to wait longer to get through by phone as staff numbers have been reduced due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Customers calls will be answered we just ask the customers to stay on line and we will get to them,” she said.

However, those who are attending NCT centres for their tests are advised that they will only allow a small number of people to wait for their tests in the waiting area at a time.

“Once checked in, we are asking them to return to their car and wait until advised when it is their turn to enter the building. We also ask that customers ensure their vehicle is clean, tidy and free of any unhygienic matter such as used tissues and wipes and ensure that the air vents in your car are closed and the fans are on low settings”.

“ We also ask that customers pay by card where possible to reduce the chance of cross infection by using cash,” she added.

“In line with Government advice, the more vulnerable in society are being asked to contact us on 014135992 to arrange an alternative appointment,” she added.

“We are also asking if any customer has been exposed to the virus or have knowingly been in contact with anyone showing symptoms, that they don’t visit the NCT centre and in this instance follow HSE advice,” she said.

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