Thursday, May 21, 2020

Covid-19 hand hygiene upgrade

There's an awful lot we don't know about Covid-19, but the one thing we do know, even total idiots like Donald Trump and Iain Duncan Smith, is that we have to wash our hands frequently. Very frequently, as often as possible, and thoroughly, front, back, between all the fingers and both of the thumbs, while singing Happy Birthday to Me twice. And we know that we do this because the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid can live on surfaces (or fomites as we in the medical profession like to call them) for many hours, and can transfer to our hands and thence to our mouths if we do not wash frequently.

The only problem is that if we are in a supermarket picking things off the shelf that was put there by someone who is carrying Covid without knowing it, we cannot wash our hands between each item. We could find the lavvy at the end of our shopping spree, but that place is probably a hotbed of virus, and the tap needs to be turned off, and the door needs to be opened, and can we be arsed?

So the advice to wash for 20 seconds is excellent, but a bit impractical.

For this reason some have taken to wearing gloves while out and about. Some shop assistants wear them too.  Gloves mean no virus on skin, which is great, but instead we get plenty virus on gloves, which is not so great. Signs are beginning to appear: TAKE YOUR BLOODY GLOVES OFF. Which is also not so great.

So here is the solution: Shops can provide, at accessible places, glove cleansing sponges soaked in 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (=dilute bleach) which kills the virus within a minute. One squeeze (front and back is enough to dampen the gloves in deadly bleach, and anything you touch thereafter will leave a trace of viricidal bleach, not a trace of virus. The bleach will not harm the gloves - I've tried it.

This makes perfect sense. You can sterilise your hands every few minutes, with a quick squeeze. You can even carry your own sponge about with you in a polythene bag. No more trips to the loo, no more more 20 second hand wash routines, no more sore red hands, no more fomite anxieties. And if everyone does it, we get a smaller R number. What's not to like?

The only thing not to like is that the suggestion is coming from a retired GP with an inventive streak, and therefore the Government scientists have no replicated double blind crossover clinical trial on this procedure, no comparison of Covid incidence in 10,000 hand washers as compared to 10,000 glove sterilisers. Therefore there is NO EVIDENCE and therefore Government scientists will find reasons to pour cold water on the proposal. In fact, they will wash their hands of the idea.

But it is still a great step forward in the battle against this deeply unpleasant disease. Look for it to be taken up in other countries, and in this country once we are well and truly desperate.

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