With the coronavirus threat taking a grip on the entire world, many nations have responded to the outbreak by imposing a lockdown in order to break the transmission chain of the infection. Social distancing and maintaining hygiene at a personal level can aid to a great degree for preventing the spread of the virus. Every business that possibly could manage continuity by working from home has ensured to apply that as well. However, in case of vital services or businesses that need physical presence and handling to keep functioning, or are reopening after lockdown, it has become extremely crucial to take every preventive step possible in order to protect the people involved in the business, including the employees and the customers, from getting infected.
With no vaccine or specific treatment procedure for the highly infectious Coronavirus or COVID-19, and its spread in over 200 countries, the primary and basic advice to prevent Coronavirus spread is to practice rigorous hygiene measures.
These practices include Cleaning and Disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
What is Cleaning and Disinfection?
The cleaning process is the breakdown and removal of soil and other deposits from surfaces. The right cleaning agents and chemicals can kill bacteria and microbes to a certain extent.
Disinfectants, on the other hand, are not for the mere removal of residues but are designed specifically for the purpose of killing pathogens and harmful microorganisms.
Cleaning agents and disinfectants should not only serve the purpose of cleaning surfaces and killing microorganisms, but should also ensure that they do not damage the surfaces to which they are applied.
How does Cleaning and Disinfection help?
There are cleaners and chemicals that we use for cleaning the surfaces and areas around us on a regular basis. But dealing with and controlling a highly infectious pathogen or virus requires higher quality of agents, expertise and controlling measures.
Disinfectants that are EPA registered or use EPA guided ingredients in them can be considered standard cleaning and disinfecting agents. They can, in fact, be termed as registered pesticides specifically manufactured or approved for the killing of certain pathogens.
Disinfectants and cleansers can work in a variety of ways. While alcohol based disinfectants often destroy harmful microorganisms by cross-linking, clumping or coagulation, other chemicals and agents prove effective by oxidizing or surface contact killing.
Depending on the working mechanism and chemical formulation, different disinfectants are effective against different types of bacteria, viruses, spores etc.
Also, one should keep in mind that all cleaners or disinfectants are not suitable for every surface. It should always be checked with the product or chemical manufacturer for usage safety of the product on particular surfaces.
Personal hygiene and Disinfection in smaller areas
One needs to bring into habit the practice of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces around them at an individual level.
Poor hand hygiene is one of the most basic as well as the biggest means of transmitting germs and viruses from one individual to another not just at public places but inside our homes too. People frequently cough and sneeze into their hands or touch their mouth or nose, and provide a ready means to spread germs to everything they touch. These harmful germs and viruses can be easily transferred to other people when they touch such a contaminated surface and become infected when they touch their mouth, nose or eyes. Frequent sanitization of hands and disinfecting key touchpoints is of utmost importance at the moment.
Certain key touchpoints that people commonly share are:
Studies have shown that microorganisms can spread from an infected person within an entire closed premises in 2–4 hours via contaminated touchpoints.
How to implement disinfection procedures in larger areas?
Since, in these times, safety is a vital concern for every organisation or premises, a facility must necessarily develop and have a well written plan of disinfection and cleaning. These plans must be for both individual hygiene practices as well as for maintaining hygiene at an organisational level. They must be conveyed in easy to understand written procedures that can be comprehended and followed by everyone easily.
For larger areas, organisations, office premises, warehouses, public places etc. one can even take the aid of professional and specially trained disinfection technicians. Since manual methods might not prove to be very effective for large and frequently accessed areas, mechanical spraying, fogging and disinfectant coatings can be ideal choices.
Disinfection service technicians clean and disinfect the site using specialist equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and an approved high-level surface disinfectant, systematically cleaning all the key touch points and surfaces.
For sanitizing hard to access areas, ultra-low volume (ULV) disinfection fogging using a fogger machine can be incorporated to generate a cloud of extremely small droplets of the disinfectant liquid that spreads to a wider area and range of surfaces that are otherwise inaccessible through manual cleansing.
Frequently touched points like door knobs, switches etc. can be coated with self disinfecting layers to prevent the spread of viruses via touch of common points.
These methods ease the treatment of large areas in a short time and helps in breaking the chain of transmission.
Both at an individual level and at an organisational level, it is necessary to take precautions for preventing the further spread of the coronavirus. Hygiene practices being the only possible solution to the concern at the moment, need to be practiced in different forms and ways like sanitisation, disinfection and cleaning on a regular and frequent basis. Lifting social restrictions for economical or other reasons, and people returning to normal social setups, increases the likelihood of more waves of coronavirus infections amongst people. Staying vigilant, continuing using hygienic practices and ensuring germ free surfaces around us can be the only way out.