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Handwashing and its importance in fighting COVID-19

Handwashing from faucets. Illustration. For many panicked by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), preventative measures are often sought out. Arguably the most publicised of these is handwashing.

“Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water,” the World Health Organization recommends, noting that this “kills viruses that may be on your hands.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, included an infographic which listed “[washing] your hands frequently” as among “the basic protective measures for all.” 

In Vietnam, one artist – Quang Dang – conceived of a novel way to illustrate the importance of washing one’s hands and how to do it properly in the face of COVID-19. The video proved popular even with UNICEF, who shared it in a tweet that read “we love this handwashing dance from Vietnamese dancer, Quang Đăng.” The organisation added that “washing your hands with soap and water is one of the first steps to protect yourself.” 

Quang Dang’s dance was inspired by a public service announcement scored with “Ghen Co Vy.” This inspired a challenge on the social media network TikTok known as the #ghencovychallenge, where the dance pioneered by Quang Dang originated. 

Health Issues India has reported before on the importance of handwashing for the sake of health and sanitation. As well as COVID-19, proper handwashing can be conducive to the prevention of conditions such as diarrhoea. UNICEF India notes that, of the 1.5 million child deaths which occur yearly due to diarrhoeal diseases, forty percent can be prevented by “handwashing with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet.” The spread of infectious conditions such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) – an earlier outbreak of which has drawn comparisons with the present COVID-19 outbreak – and pneumonia can also be controlled in part by proper handwashing practices. 

A recent survey of Indians by GOQii, a digital preventative healthcare brand, found that seventy percent of respondents are taking preventative measures in order to safeguard themselves against COVID-19. 63.59 percent of those surveyed have ready access to hand sanitiser.

Promotion of handwashing must be a core element of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. Neglect of proper handwashing practices already carries risks to health. As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, including in India, the risks are arguably more palpable than ever.

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