Handwashing may not have been at the top of your priority list in the past although it’s something we do each day, however, 2020 has brought it into immediate focus. Good hand hygiene is not only a socially accepted practice, but it can also literally save lives.
Each year Global Handwashing Day is celebrated on 15 October. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
When COVID-19 began impacting countries around the world in early 2020, one of the first initiatives was to increase awareness about handwashing. According to The Global Handwashing Partnership, handwashing with soap destroys the outer membrane of the COVID-19 virus and thereby inactivates it. One study found that regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%.
Guidelines were set in place that indicates that 20 seconds was the required time for washing hands and there were even suggestions of how to make the practice fun. For instance, you may have heard someone singing in the bathroom! Singing can encourage us to continue washing our hands for the full 20 seconds.
However, this isn’t new information. Handwashing guidelines have existed in the medical profession for years and many development programs around the world focus on handwashing as one of their key educational pillars. Although 2020 has been an unexpected year, the benefits of an increased focus on preventing the spread of disease through something as simple as handwashing is a meaningful change that we hope can stay.
This year’s Global Handwashing Day theme is Hand hygiene for all, calling for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene now and for the future. At SMCT, this is something we’re committed to.
So, what are some ways we can all keep this practice up? Here are five tips to ensure handwashing and good hand hygiene are here to stay.
- Make it fun – choose a song that you like, it could be happy birthday, the chorus to Mr Brightside by The Killers or I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. Find a song or part of a song that goes for 20 seconds and have a good old sing-along as you wash.
- Soap up – washing with soap is one of the crucial steps in the handwashing process. Make sure there is always a good supply of quality soap accessible where any handwashing station has been set up.
- Step-by-step guides – we are all familiar with the handwashing posters in place around bathrooms, shopping centres and workplaces. Keep one of these signs up as a reminder to keep up the handwashing practice.
- Stay accountable – friendly reminders to friends, family and colleagues about washing their hands will help to keep the practice going. Generally, we direct this message towards children, but it’s something that we can all work towards.
- Repeat – handwashing should be practised every time you visit the bathroom, touch an unclean surface or item, or engage in hands-on work. This regular practice will create good habits that can be carried into the future.
Handwashing is here to stay. We are so grateful to our employees and visitors for their commitment to hand hygiene as something that is keeping us safe and well now and into the future.