Hand washing better than gloves against COVID-19

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Hand washing is better than disposable gloves in containing COVID-19 infection, say public health officials

Hand washing is better than disposable gloves in preventing and containing spread of COVID-19 infection, Public Health clarifies. Over two months since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada, the federal government moves towards ‘new normal’ conditions. Representatives from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) clarify that hand washing is still a better solution for the general populace than nation-wide adopting disposable gloves in every day.

The question surrounding disposable gloves is an early one. The PHAC, moreover, recommended practicing social distancing and wearing face masks as preventive measures even after easing of lockdown begins. Many feel disposable gloves could become part of every day life for Canadians in supermarkets and elsewhere.

The government’s position on the issue has been vague before today’s statement. Even doctors are still not quite certain how much gloves impact on prevention. Some people, such as Dianne Preston of Guelph, Ontario, say that the lack of evidence does not prevent them from wearing them. ‘I figure, it can’t hurt. I really have no idea if it actually helps or whatever, but I feel a little bit better doing it’, said Preston.

However, PHAC is less certain, pointing out that the virus can survive in droplets on surfaces like disposable gloves. Subsequently touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth with gloves, after an ill-advised sense of security, can lead to infection. Microbiologist and Professor Keith Warriner agrees with the PHAC that gloves are not a solution. ‘It gives you that false security’, says Warriner. ‘If you’re wearing gloves, you’re less likely to wash your hands which is one of the best strategies’

Fast food chains to comply with new recommendations

Meanwhile, the spotlight is aimed at retailers and fast food chains known for using disposable plastic gloves on a large scale. The question on everybody’s mind becomes: should retail workers wear gloves? Face masks are mandatory for everyone working at Tim Hortons, McDonald’s or Starbucks. But policies differ with regard to disposable gloves, with Tim Hortons requiring all workers to wear them. Starbucks and McDonald’s employees, on the other hand, simply have the ‘option’ to wear them.

PHAC posted new recommendations, stressing that ‘wearing disposable gloves does not negate the need for frequent hand washing’. Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Starbucks each reiterated their strict hand washing protocols for employees. Tim Hortons Representative Michael Oliveira made this pretty clear in a new statement. ‘We do not consider gloves to be a replacement for proper, thorough hand washing’, he said. ‘Team members are still thoroughly washing their hands each and every time they change gloves’.

Customers have criticised McDonald’s for its ambiguous policy regarding gloves. In reply, McDonald’s stated that when handling food, gloves can actually be a risk rather than a safety tool.

Meanwhile, Patty Nowlin, owner of a grocery store in Alberta, an enthusiastic support of safety measures for workers and clients, has axed her policy on mandatory disposable gloves. She agrees with the PHAC that gloves might be more dangerous than thought. ‘When people were wearing the gloves, I would just question whether or not they’re washing their hands as often’, she said.

Nowlin remembered how once she witnessed a shopper enter the store with soiled gloves. She was afraid some might re-use gloves rather than dispose of them. This could skyrocket the threat of a spread in her grocer or in other places.

So, at least for now, it seems hand washing will still be the way to go. Nowlin agrees: ‘We’re still reminding people all the time, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands’. Hand washing and practicing a conscious social distancing remain our best weapons against a new outbreak.