In some countries hygiene promotion staff may be visiting households to share information about coronavirus and promote hygiene behaviors. Hygiene promoters can provide critical information that may help interrupt transmission but this type of hygiene promotion is also risky. As hygiene promoters move around communities they are putting themselves at a higher risk of getting infected and/or transmitting the virus to others. With COVID-19, people can become infected but not yet be symptomatic (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3). This means that hygiene promoters who feel healthy may themselves be infected and at risk of spreading this to other people in the community.
Currently we would not recommend that hygiene promoters use gloves. Below we outline three reasons for this:
Gloves need to be prioritised for those who need them most. Gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are critically needed by healthcare staff. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that shortages are expected of all PPE, including gloves. In this context, it is important to promote a rational use of PPE.
Gloves may provide a false sense of security and compromise good hygiene. Studies among food providers have found that gloves are often not changed frequently enough and decrease hand hygiene. This is a risk for infection because just as viruses can transfer between surfaces to hands, gloves can also easily pick up viruses from surfaces.
Gloves create a lot of waste. Once gloves are worn they need to be disposed of safely because of the risk of them being contaminated. In many countries unsafe glove disposal is already creating a problem. Since SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on plastic materials for several days (see “How long does SARS-CoV-2 survive on surfaces?”), unsafe disposal of gloves could further contribute to the spread of COVID-19.