Back to School Essentials – the Covid-19 Edition

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team

While online learning has been an integral element in the lives of university students in Singapore, chances are there will be a return to campus soon as the Covid-19 situation here transitions from a pandemic to an endemic. After all, face-to-face learning will be a welcomed change for those suffering from Zoom fatigue and missing interactions with their professors, classmates and CCAs.

To safeguard students, faculty and staff, SMU has implemented and enforced a rigorous set of precautionary measures — including the Space Occupancy ‘N’ Availability Readings (SONAR) platform (accessible only on SMU WiFi or VPN) which provides a near real-time approximation of the occupancy at various popular locations around campus spaces. Moreover, the University’s small class sizes allow for minimised interactions and safe distancing.

But to ensure further peace of mind, students can also take steps to feel safe when in-person learning resumes. Besides backpack prerequisites like notebooks, highlighters and lunchboxes, here are the best gadgets, accessories and hacks to help you feel safer as you return to campus.


Device sanitisers

Researchers have found that the Covid-19 virus can survive on different surfaces and even remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, up to four hours on copper, and up to 24 hours on cardboard.

That’s not all, a 2017 study on the phones of teens found that the screens played host to viruses and bacteria including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus and other germs. With laptops, calculators and other devices being on heavy rotation in the classroom, perhaps it’s time to think about giving these high-contact objects a deep clean.

Gadget geeks may be drawn to snazzy light sanitisers that claim to zap away common household germs and bacteria. Phonesoap, for example, is a pencil case-like box that “sanitises” your phone in just 10 minutes. However, at almost $100 a pop, and the fact that it has not been tested on the Covid-19 virus, perhaps it’s better to stick to affordable and reliable disinfecting wipes that contain alcohol.

Just remember to steer clear of skin disinfectants like hand sanitisers that may degrade gadgets, and to prevent streak marks by wiping the surface with a clean, microfibre cloth after disinfecting. Lastly, remove waterproof phone cases and wash them with soap and water at the end of the day.


Hand washing accoutrements

Hand sanitisers are certainly nifty for those on the go, simply squeeze and slather an alcohol-based formula to prevent the spread of the virus. However, a 2019 study found that washing hands with soap and water still beats using an antibacterial gel. Sensitive to harsh hand soaps or worried about empty soap dispensers in toilets? Tote around handy soap sheets that lather when wet – some of which boast moisturising properties and come in fun scents and biodegradable packaging – which  are great for washing your hands even without access to a bathroom.

Also, prevent cracked skin from hand washing / sanitising with a non-greasy lotion, which doesn’t smudge the ink on your notes or add slip to your pen grip. You can even decant lotion from a large bottle into travel-friendly silicone tubes to reduce plastic wastage.


Face mask enhancers

Like it or not, mandatory face mask-wearing throughout the day is our new reality. If you have trouble finding a face mask that fits, or experience skin irritation from mask straps around the ears, why not try a face mask enhancer?

Usually made from silicone, these adjustable straps may not be fashion statement-making but they offer help in securing your mask comfortably for around-the-clock usage. The bespectacled can also use an anti-fog spray to keep your lenses clear when wearing a face covering, while aromatherapy fans can try a deodorising mask spritz on a fabric mask (ideally worn over a surgical mask).


Wipeable backpack

Let’s be honest, how often do you wash that backpack that you toss on the classroom or MRT train floor? To avoid bringing home a mass of bacteria on your back, pick a bag that is waterproof and can be easily wiped down with an alcohol-based cleaning agent like one made from tarpaulin. The waterproof material is often used as a protective shelter for, say, covering the contents of a lorry, and can also be cleansed with soap and detergent.


A set of wheels

Feel your anxiety levels rising as that bus or train gets too crowded on your way to school? Try bringing along a portable skateboard so you can get some fresh air and avoid crowds, to get around campus. Newbies can even join inline skating training sessions organised by the SMUX Skating Club, and participate in urban skating segments when they feel more comfortable on wheels.