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Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for the COVID-19 virus

3. Toilets and the handling of faeces

It is critical to conduct hand hygiene when there is suspected or direct contact with faeces (if hands are dirty, then soap and water are preferred to the use of an alcohol-based hand rub). If the patient is unable to use a latrine, excreta should be collected in either a diaper or a clean bedpan and immediately and carefully disposed of into a separate toilet or latrine used only by suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. In all health care settings, including those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, faeces must be treated as a biohazard and handled as little as possible. Anyone handling faeces should follow WHO contact and droplet precautions18 and use PPE to prevent exposure, including long-sleeved gowns, gloves, boots, masks, and goggles or a face shield. If diapers are used, they should be disposed of as infectious waste as they would be in all situations. Workers should be properly trained in how to put on, use, and remove PPE so that these protective barriers are not breached.25 If PPE is not available or the supply is limited, hand hygiene should be regularly practiced, and workers should keep at least 1 m distance from any suspected or confirmed cases.

If a bedpan is used, after disposing of excreta from it, the bedpan should be cleaned with a neutral detergent and water, disinfected with a 0.5% chlorine solution, and then rinsed with clean water; the rinse water should be disposed of in a drain or a toilet or latrine. Other effective disinfectants include commercially available quaternary ammonium compounds, such as cetylpyridinium chloride, used according to manufacturer’s instructions, and peracetic or peroxyacetic acid at concentrations of 500−2000 mg/L.26

Chlorine is ineffective for disinfecting media containing large amounts of solid and dissolved organic matter. Therefore, there is limited benefit to adding chlorine solution to fresh excreta and it is possible that this may introduce risks associated with splashing.

4. Emptying latrines and holding tanks, and transporting excreta off-site.

There is no reason to empty latrines and holding tanks of excreta from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases unless they are at capacity. In general, the best practices for safely managing excreta should be followed. Latrines or holding tanks should be designed to meet patient demand, considering potential sudden increases in cases, and there should be a regular schedule for emptying them based on the wastewater volumes generated. PPE (long-sleeved gown, gloves, boots, masks, and goggles or a face shield) should be worn at all times when handling or transporting excreta offsite, and great care should be taken to avoid splashing. For crews, this includes pumping out tanks or unloading pumper trucks. After handling the waste and once there is no risk of further exposure, individuals should safely remove their PPE and perform hand hygiene before entering the transport vehicle. Soiled PPE should be put in a sealed bag for later safe laundering (see Cleaning practices). Where there is no off-site treatment, in-situ treatment can be done using lime. Such treatment involves using a 10% lime slurry added at 1-part lime slurry per 10 parts of waste.

5. Cleaning practices

Recommended cleaning and disinfection procedures for health care facilities should be followed consistently and correctly.19 Laundry should be done and surfaces in all environments in which COVID-19 patients receive care (treatment units, community care centres) should be cleaned at least once a day and when a patient is discharged.27 Many disinfectants are active against enveloped viruses, such as the COVID-19 virus, including commonly used hospital disinfectants. Currently, WHO recommends using:

·  70% ethyl alcohol to disinfect small areas between uses, such as reusable dedicated equipment (for example, thermometers);

·  sodium hypochlorite at 0.5% (equivalent to 5000 ppm) for disinfecting surfaces

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