The entire world has been in lockdown mode for the past several months due to COVID-19. Precautions typically taken during a rare epidemic have now become a matter of routine for most people, with the Coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of abating in the near future. As the world slowly opens up to keep the economy going, people are preparing to get on with life. In such a scenario where social distancing rules are being relaxed even as the pandemic continues its deathly run, will the community continue to practise strict hygienic habits including hand hygiene that have become almost a way of life?
In addition to increasing infection and death rates, the pandemic has had a massive impact on the economy with Australia staring at mass unemployment and a pending Global Financial Crisis. As industry, business and trade get back into operational mode, could COVID-19 become an issue again? Are there hygiene solutions that can be put permanently in place to maximise virus removal?
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has resulted in a social and cultural shift within the community in terms of the increased focus on effective hand hygiene practices. Studies have shown that placing emphasis through a compelling narrative around hand hygiene increased the likelihood of managing hand hygiene practices regularly (Salama et al: 2013).
As a developer of leading hand hygiene products for many years, this societal shift in hand hygiene practices falls within the scope of the Enware research and development team. In a post COVID-19 world, there is high probability of hand hygiene practices being advertised and promoted by various organisations, not just for awareness, but also from a psychological perspective that members of the public are more likely to comply with when practicing hand hygiene in public spaces. Australians will be required to change their understanding of good hand hygiene practices, which will demand a social and cultural shift to ensure they can return to a level of normality in a post COVID-19 world.
Can the COVID-19 virus resurface as a credible health concern to the Australian public? Studies have indicated that COVID-19 can survive for anywhere between 4 and 72 hours depending on the surface (The New England Journal of Medicine: 2020). A reduction in infection rates is no excuse for getting lackadaisical about prescribed hand hygiene practices. The consequences of neglecting hand hygiene practices can be costly: in Europe it resulted in an increase of 16 million extra patient hospital days (World Health Organization: 2009). In the United States, hospital acquired infections (HAI) cost over 35 billion US dollars each year (Scott: 2009).
Neglecting hand hygiene in a controlled environment such as a hospital setting is one thing, but doing so in public spaces could undo all of the efforts that Australians have invested in thus far. A typical scenario would be one where someone neglects the handwashing protocol at a supermarket setting, with the virus easily spreading to a shopper, who will very likely carry it to family members or friends. In the post COVID-19 world, it’s likely that hand hygiene, complemented by better cleaning protocols would still be applied in businesses and amongst the general public at least for the next few months.
Given the current state of uncertainty where COVID-19 is concerned, what are the best solutions to maximise hand hygiene for the general public?
Professor Pallor Thordarson has indicated that the most effective form of handwashing is through soap (Vox: 2020). Soap when combined with water, pulls viruses apart as the soap is attracted to the fat cells from the virus. It is then pulled apart and removed by the water as soap is also attracted by water upon contact (Vox: 2020).
In a post COVID-19 world, it’s highly likely that soaps will become more popular over time with products being created to encourage the use of soap in public.
Only by maintaining good hygiene practices and using soap for handwashing can we minimise the likelihood of COVID-19 becoming a public health concern. Neglecting such practices could result in more stringent social distancing restrictions well into the future.
Enware has been developing a range of hand hygiene solutions to help Australia prepare for life in the post COVID-19 world. One of these initiatives is an interactive digital handwashing guidance designed to provide an educational narrative to each handwashing episode along with the capability to record the efficacy of hand hygiene events. This is currently being trialled in a number of hospitals across the country.
Enware Australia has also developed a range of products to provide practical solutions that reduce physical contact during hand hygiene moments for achieving better outcomes.
World Health Organization (2009). WHO guidelines on hand hygiene in healthcare: first global patient safety challenge. Clean care is safer care: a summary, http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/tools/who_guidelines-handhygiene_summary.pdf
Vox (2020), How soap absolutely annihilates the Coronavirus, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/11/21173187/coronavirus-covid-19-hand-washing-sanitizer-compared-soap-is-dope
Scott RD (2009), The direct medical costs of healthcare-associated infections in US hospitals and the benefits of prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/pdfs/hai/Scott_CostPaper.pdf
The New England Journal of Medicine (2020), Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1, Massachusetts Medical Society; 2020. USA.
Mona F. Salamaa, Wafaa Y. Jamala, Haifa Al Mousad, Khaled A. Al-AbdulGhani, Vincent O.Rotimi (2013), The effect of hand hygiene compliance on hospital-acquired infections in an ICU setting in a Kuwaiti teaching hospital, Journal of Infection and Public Health, Volume 6 Issue 1.
Mary Van Beusekom (2020), Studies: Hand sanitizers kill COVID-19 virus, e-consults appropriate, https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/studies-hand-sanitizers-kill-covid-19-virus-e-consults-appropriate