VANCOUVER -- With more people staying inside and having goods and groceries delivered to their homes, a UBC expert is reassuring people even though COVID-19 can survive on some surfaces for hours or even days, the risk is low compared to person-to-person contact.

Associate professor of food safety engineering Siyun Wang told CTV News there is a study showing the coronavirus can still be detected for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

“In order for them to be contaminated, an infected person must have coughed or sneezed on these contact surfaces a few hours or a couple of days before,” said Wang, calling that a “worst-case scenario.”

“In general, I would worry more about getting contact with other people in very very close distance rather then touching a surface and getting affected.”

Wang said when it comes to home deliveries, any workers with symptoms right now are required to stay home.

“So as long as people who are working on these are following the rules properly, there is a very little chance that infected person can get in touch with our packages and other materials,” Wang said.

She recommended people avoid direct contact with others by having deliveries left outside their homes to pick up. Wang added if people want to be even more cautious, there is an additional precaution they can take, although she said it’s not as important as maintaining distance from other people.

“Remove the external packaging promptly, and make sure that it’s discarded or recycled right after that, and then wash your hands and then handle whatever is inside,” Wang said.

As for outings to the grocery store, Wang said the coronavirus is not a food safety concern, and that everyone in the supply chain is required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency not to come to work if they have symptoms.

“Compared to worry about contaminated food products, I would be much much more concerned with again, person to person interactions,” Wang said, and added that’s why stores have been encouraging physical distancing.

Wang said people should also think about whether they’re touching something that’s likely to have been touched by a lot of other people recently, like a shopping cart or basket.

“It’s actually helpful to think about whether they have been in contact with other people in the past few hours. If that’s the truth, then they’re going to be more careful with how to handle them. But if they have been just left there, or handled by healthy staff members, then it will be less of a concern,” Wang said.

Wang said while she can’t say there is zero risk associated with handling all surfaces and items found in a store, people can take reasonable precautions and not be as concerned as they should be about avoiding crowds and close contact.

“Person to person the number one reason for the virus to spread,” Wang said.