Ten months into the pandemic, handwashing with soap remains one of our best defenses against the virus, along with other public health measures such as maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowded places, practising cough etiquette and wearing a mask wherever recommended.
Global Handwashing Day observed annually on October 15 to raise awareness and highlight the importance of handwashing as an effective means of disease prevention – this year marks a critical reminder for the world and the Region that this simple, cost effective practice can save lives.
‘Handwashing has always been one of most effective ways of keeping diseases at bay. It is a simple act that pays in dividends when it comes to keeping ourselves healthy and safe. Handwashing is also one of the key cornerstones of COVID-19 prevention. Now more than ever as we embrace the new normal and live with COVID-19, hand hygiene needs to become an integral part of our daily routine and our lives, as we live through this pandemic, and beyond, to protect us from diseases,’ said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
With COVID-19 transmission mainly spreading between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions, washing hands with soap and running water is of critical importance. To stop the spread of COVID-19, along with other COVID appropriate behaviours, the practice of handwashing at regular intervals is a must, after coughing or sneezing, when caring for the sick, after using the toilet, before eating, while preparing food and after handling animals or animal waste. Handwashing after touching common surfaces such as doorknobs or handles, or after one comes back home from visiting a public place will keep ourselves and others around us safe.
“Promoting hand hygiene at all levels of health care is also critical. Hand hygiene, a very simple action, is well accepted to be one of the primary modes of reducing health care-associated infection and of enhancing patient safety,” the Regional Director said.
The pandemic is still among us and it is far from over. We must remind ourselves of the basics that we as individuals can do to keep ourselves safe, she said.
This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is Hand Hygiene for All and calls for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.