Coronavirus: handwashing a simple but effective tool to stop virus spread

Health authority advises regular handwashing with soap and water over hand sanitisers

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Health experts battling the spread of coronavirus have recommended singing happy birthday twice to help gauge the right amount of time to wash your hands.

The unusual advice has been given by the United States Centres for Disease Control and has been widely adopted by countries around the world, including in the UAE.

Dr Hend Al Awadhi, of the Dubai Heath Authority, said regular handwashing should be done for at least 20 seconds, and was a more effective method of hygiene than using hand sanitisers.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 4  – 2020 :- Dr Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education Section in the DHA’s Public Health Protection Department  at the DHA office in Festival Office tower in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News. Story by Nick Webster
Dr Hend Al Awadhi, head of health promotion and education at the DHA’s Public Health Protection Department. Pawan Singh / The National

“We don’t recommend any specific brands of hand sanitisers, but we want people to focus more on the way that they wash their hands and how often,” she said.

“People should wash their hands properly with warm water and soap and ensure they are thoroughly washing in between their fingers and nails.

“This should be done for at least 20 seconds every time.”

As of Thursday, there were more than 93,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, with more than 3,000 deaths.

Regular handwashing has been widely promoted as being a simple but effective measure aimed at reducing infection rates.

A good technique suggested by the CDC involves first wetting your hands with clean, running water and applying soap.

The backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails should also be lathered and scrubbed followed by a thorough rinsing under clean, running water.

"Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds," CDC advice stipulates. "Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice."

Health experts have also said hand sanitisers do not necessarily get rid of all types of germs and may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Although alcohol-free hand sanitisers are available, they are less effective than alcohol-based cleansers.

Islamic teachings allow Muslims to use alcohol for medicinal purposes.

“Correct handwashing with this technique is always preferable, but if this is not possible then using a hand-sanitiser is the next best option,” said Dr Al Awadhi.

“Products that have an alcohol content of at least 60 per cent should be used in an effective hygiene routine.”