Everyone is currently in panic and doing all they can to protect themselves from COVID-19, some are even wearing gloves everywhere they go.
Panic has driven people into taking wrong measures, all in the name of protecting themselves from getting infected. The key way to avoid the infection is by sanitising your hands regularly, wearing a face mask everywhere you go, and keeping your hands away from your face.
Walking around the supermarket, you may notice that some of your fellow shoppers are wearing rubber gloves. One woman picks up a box of cereal for example, puts it back, touches her face with her gloved hand and tucks her hair behind her ear. She then pulls out her phone to consult her shopping list.
Given what we know about how Covid-19 spreads, predominantly through droplets expelled in the air, but also through touching infected surfaces. If someone with the virus on their hands had already touched that cereal box, the woman may have transferred it to her gloves, her face and her phone.
Professor Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says: “Whilst you’re walking around the supermarket, you could easily touch your nose, mouth and eyes with gloved hands. The only reason it might help is if you remember you have gloves on and think: ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t touch my face’.”
He also mentions that health workers, for example, may be coming into close contact with patients who are very ill and they may also be taking care of body fluids, but the bottom line is that they are well-trained to use the gloves properly. That includes taking them off safely in a way that they won’t find themselves touching the outside of the glove.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) doesn’t recommend that members of the public wear rubber gloves. The WHO guidance says: “Regularly washing your bare hands offers more protection against catching Covid-19 than wearing rubber gloves. You can still pick up Covid-19 contamination on rubber gloves.”
Another issue with gloves is that they are frequently discarded on the ground rather than in bins, which is not only a problem for the environment and wildlife, but also extreme danger for if a child picks one up, only to find that it has the virus on it.
While disposable gloves are not a replacement for hand washing, Dr Ed Wright, senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Sussex, says they can act as a form of protection when hand-washing isn’t possible, hand sanitiser isn’t available and you are unsure whether or not a surface is contaminated, but only if used and disposed safely.
“Safe removal and disposal of the gloves would mean that if there was virus on the surface none of it would remain on your hands,” he says. “Using gloves correctly is crucial though because, as with face masks, if they are used incorrectly or cause people to stray from the other public health measures, any benefit is far outweighed by the increase in risk from this change in behaviour.”
Dr Wright added: “It is not possible for the virus to infect us through the skin so washing our hands with soap, or using alcohol hand gel, is a highly effective way to inactivate and remove the virus, and minimises the chance of introducing it into our respiratory tract by touching your face, the major route of infection for SARS-CoV-2.”
The most advisable measure is to always keep your hands sanitised. When going to the supermarket, sanitise your hands both before entering the supermarket and when leaving, to kill any virus or bacteria you may have picked from inside. Once you get home, give your hands a proper wash with soap, remembering the 20-second rule.