Wed | May 27, 2020

Editorial | Clean hands!

Published:Saturday | February 29, 2020 | 12:00 AM

As concern heightens over the global public health threat being posed by the new coronavirus that causes the illness Covid-19, ordinary folk are understandably anxious to learn what they can do to protect themselves.

Early diagnosis and containment are two strategies best employed by countrywide systems, and images of deserted towns attest to this method being employed in cities in Asia and Europe, where the virus has been detected. We do not believe that protection by isolation is a sustainable answer to this creeping crisis. Jamaica is a tourist country which welcomes visitors from all parts of the world at its three international airports and seaports. It is an imperatives that the necessary precautions be taken.

As yet, we have not seen the level of action required to disinfect public buildings, such as installation of sanitizers. The market districts continue to be swamped by garbage and fermenting debris. So, individuals ought to be worried. From all indications though, the age-old habit of washing hands is now more relevant than ever.


The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended a four-step process:

- Wet your hands with clean, running water. To save water, turn off the tap while applying soap.

- For at least 20 seconds, scrub your hands. That’s about the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

- Rinse your hands well.

- Dry your hands using a clean towel.

The CDC prefers the use of soap and water for effectiveness against all germs. However, in circumstances where they are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute.

At the moment, there is no vaccine against Covid-19 and one is not expected under 18 months, so basic hygiene is one of the most effective weapons against transmission. CDC further recommends that people avoid those who are sick and refrain from touching their faces with unwashed hands. CDC suggests also that persons who show signs of illness could wear a face mask as a precaution against transmission through a splash from a cough or sneeze.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a campaign to slow the spread of Covid-19 advises people to carry tissues to catch coughs and sneezes and to toss the tissues in bins immediately. People are advised not to use their hands to cover their mouths and noses.

The campaign cautions people against touching their eyes, mouths or noses if their hands are not clean, and to avoid close contact with people showing signs of fever.

Protection may be viewed as somewhat anti-social, since it advocates less handshaking, hugging, and kissing, as some medical experts believe the virus can be spread by ordinary tidal breathing and not necessarily via colds, sneezing and coughing.

All the sciences have emphasised the practice of good hygiene in an era of emerging viruses such as Ebola and SARS and, before that, HIV.

Travel bans, stranded cruise ships, rejected visitors, declining stock markets and reduced trade and national nervousness are only some of the consequences of this Covid-19.

A look back at history will show that it took six months to contain Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was detected in Asia in February 2003. Six months after it had spread to 29 countries in North and South America and Europe ,it was stopped in July.

Hopefully, the march of this virus across continents will be stopped in short order. The World Health Organization is reporting more than 2,800 deaths from 82,000 confirmed cases in more than 20 countries.

Remaining alert and maintaining good hygiene is really the most responsible thing an individual can do at this time.