As additional sectors of the economy are expected to open from 1 June, more people will be outside their homes for extended periods of time.FILE PHOTO Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Is it safe to use public toilets during Covid-19 pandemic

As additional sectors of the economy are expected to open from 1 June, more people will be outside their homes for extended periods of time and they may have no choice but to use the toilet at a park, office, or restaurant. 

DURBAN – Shopping malls are among drivers of Covid-19 infections in the country. Earlier this month an epidemiological assessment of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro had identified that funerals, shopping malls, Sassa offices and private hospitals were Covid-19 hotspots.

“In the metro, Shoprite in KwaDwesi, Checkers in Newton Park and Woolworths in Walmer were some of the stores in the metro identified as hotspots in the retail sector,” said Eastern Cape head of health, Thobile Mbengashe.

As additional sectors of the economy are expected to open from June 1, more people will be outside their homes for extended periods of time and they may have no choice but to use the toilet at a park, office, or restaurant. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also acknowledged the shortcomings of conventional public toilet design, distributing advice on safe handwashing that instructs users that in order to be protected from the virus, people should use a paper towel to turn off the tap after washing their hands.

“The coronavirus isn’t spreading around the world in public bathrooms. That’s not how this virus is infecting people and causing worldwide calamity,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

While Doctors say that for people with healthy immune systems and thorough handwashing skills, public bathrooms are relatively safe, a number of studies showed that a thorough hand wash, for the requisite 20 seconds, was not the norm for many.

“It’s time for a rethink on lots of things, and bathrooms are one of them. We need to have public bathrooms open up as lockdowns ease, but the more non-touch we have the better. Taps that you activate by sensor need to be considered,” said WHO adviser, Peter Collignon.

Adalja said he personally wouldn’t hesitate to use a public bathroom right now, but, as with any activity during a pandemic, there is always a risk.

“Ideally, people should use the bathroom before they leave their homes — but when you are out and about and need to go, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of transmitting infectious diseases, whether it’s Covid-19 or something else,” added Adalja 

 

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