Hand hygiene helps prevent COVID spread - not

I really did think it was unambiguous that washing hands helps prevent many diseases but did not help with COVID. Maybe I’m wrong there.

I do find it interesting that everyone in the world stopped shaking hands and started disinfecting every single thing that touched. But has any studies shown that actually reduced the CORONAVIRUS spread?

Covid is and was primarily spread by inhalation of airborne respiratory droplets, but in the early days of the pandemic, we didn’t know that; it’s pretty sensible, when faced with a rapidly spreading disease, to take a broader range of easy precautions than may turn out to have been strictly necessary. It was a good idea to wash hands, keep distances, wear masks, minimise physical contact with other people, wash food that will not be further cooked - even though not all of those things were the thing.

‘Cover the bases while we figure out the actual problem’ is not an un-sensible strategy.

The WHO screwed up quite badly. It took them two years to admit COVID was airborne–well past the time where the evidence was incontrovertible. A few months can be blamed on early uncertainty. Not years. This tweet aged quite badly:

The reason is a 60-year-old dogma they held that there were basically just two categories of non-contact transmission: droplets larger than 5 microns that fall out of the air rapidly, and small particles that can hang around for hours. But not only is reality not that binary, the 5-micron figure is just flat-out wrong, conflating two different figures from an ancient paper (the droplet threshold was supposed to be 100 microns).

In spite of all the obvious evidence, both empirical and theoretical, it took the WHO immense pressure to cave. And even at that, it was only in April of this year that the WHO actually redefined airborne transmission to be evidence-based. They could have done this decades earlier had they been more receptive to earlier reports that the dogma had been violated.

Not that I disagree with the point that hand-washing was an easy early precaution. But it took way longer than it should have to give better advice. And statements like the tweet above were just shameful.

Agreed. There was also some early advice here in the UK that masks were not effective, with side conversations/misinformation to the effect that masks might make it worse - and it seems that some of this advice was motivated not by anything empirical, but rather, because masks were in high demand and short supply.

This Aj Jazeera article mentions something close to that. Not quite saying that masks made things worse, but that they held off on saying it was airborne due to PPE availability.

The WHO’s reticence in recognising aerosol transmission in 2020 could have also been linked to global supply-chain problems related to the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE), some scientists suggested.

Gurdasani says that perhaps there was a decision taken that acknowledging airborne transmission could have jeopardised mask or PPE supplies for health workers.

“I don’t think you should ever change your evidence to match what you want your policy to be. I think you need to be honest with people,” she says.

Yeah, if I recall correctly, the official line was ‘masks are not necessary / not advised at this time’; the unofficial rumours circulating were that ‘they’re saying that because masks make it worse’. There were, I believe, a couple of doctors who spoke out on their personal beliefs that masks collected and concentrated germs and that this was bad.

There was a lot of noise and weird messaging and rumour in circulation - like the thing about how Ibuprofen might in some way be dangerous to take if you have the virus - and the result was shelves overstocked with Ibuprofen and not a single pack of Paracetemol to be found anywhere - in response to a tiny rumour about one medicine, people reacted by panic-buying and stockpiling the alternative.

If you’d seen my students sneezing into their hands, then touching door handles and desks, you’d want to wash your hands.

Just for the record: when they said “don’t touch your face!” in the early days of COVID, they meant “don’t touch the mucous membranes on your eyes/nose/mouth,” right? There was no danger from touching your chin or forehead…

I’ll make it simple.
COVID is spread by tiny droplets. Who DOESN’T slap their hand to their face when they cough or sneeze catching about a million droplets.

So yes, washing hands and using hand sanitizer will help stop spread.

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Unless you’re sticking your finger up your nose, you’re not going to inhaling surface Covid germs.