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

All individuals dealing with soiled bedding, towels, and clothes from patients with COVID-19 infection should wear appropriate PPE before touching soiled items, including heavy duty gloves, a mask, eye protection (goggles or a face shield), a long-sleeved gown, an apron if the gown is not fluid resistant, and boots or closed shoes. They should perform hand hygiene after exposure to blood or body fluids and after removing PPE. Soiled linen should be placed in clearly labelled, leak-proof bags or containers, after carefully removing any solid excrement and putting it in a covered bucket to be disposed of in a toilet or latrine. Machine washing with warm water at 60−90°C (140−194°F) with laundry detergent is recommended. The laundry can then be dried according to routine procedures. If machine washing is not possible, linens can be soaked in hot water and soap in a large drum using a stick to stir and being careful to avoid splashing. The drum should then be emptied, and the linens soaked in 0.05% chlorine for approximately 30 minutes. Finally, the laundry should be rinsed with clean water and the linens allowed to dry fully in sunlight

If excreta are on surfaces (such as linens or the floor), the excreta should be carefully removed with towels and immediately safely disposed of in a toilet or latrine. If the towels are single use, they should be treated as infectious waste; if they are reusable, they should be treated as soiled linens. The area should then be cleaned and disinfected (with, for example, 0.5% free chlorine solution), following published guidance on cleaning and disinfection procedures for spilled body fluids.

6. Safely disposing of greywater or water from washing PPE, surfaces and floors.

Current WHO recommendations are to clean utility gloves or heavy duty, reusable plastic aprons with soap and water and then decontaminate them with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution after each use. Single-use gloves (nitrile or latex) and gowns should be discarded after each use and not reused; hand hygiene should be performed after PPE is removed. If greywater includes disinfectant used in prior cleaning, it does not need to be chlorinated or treated again. However, it is important that such water is disposed of in drains connected to a septic system or sewer or in a soakaway pit. If greywater is disposed of in a soakaway pit, the pit should be fenced off within the health facility grounds to prevent tampering and to avoid possible exposure in the case of overflow.

7. Safe management of health care waste

Best practices for safely managing health care waste should be followed, including assigning responsibility and sufficient human and material resources to dispose of such waste safely. There is no evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of health care waste has resulted in the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. All health care waste produced during the care of COVID 19 patients should be collected safely in designated containers and bags, treated, and then safely disposed of or treated, or both, preferably on- site. If waste is moved off-site, it is critical to understand where and how it will be treated and destroyed. All who handle health care waste should wear appropriate PPE (boots, apron, long-sleeved gown, thick gloves, mask, and goggles or a face shield) and perform hand hygiene after removing it. For more information refer to the WHO guidance, Safe management of wastes from health-care activities.

Considerations for WASH practices in homes and communities.

Upholding best WASH practices in the home and community is also important for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and when caring for patients at home. Regular and correct hand hygiene is of particular importance.

1.  Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene in non−health care settings is one of the most important measures that can prevent COVID 19 infection. In homes, schools and crowded public spaces − such as markets, places of worship, and train or bus stations − regular handwashing should occur before preparing food, before and after eating, after using the toilet or changing a child’s diaper, and after touching animals. Functioning handwashing facilities with water and soap should be available within 5 m of toilets.

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