Yesterday was DAY 16 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.
Over the last two weeks I have been thinking about the role of hygiene in the spread of COVID19. I have been thinking about it from a personal perspective in terms of what I do around home, where I go, places I visit and things that I do at those places. For example on a Friday night I am most likely to be visiting various bars around the Christchurch central business district. During that time I would be sitting on stools, drinking beer at tables, having something to eat at some point.
Whilst I see bars generally moving quickly to clean up spilled beverages, dropped plates and such, I do not so often see tables being wiped down after patrons have left it. I do not see such frequent wipes of the bar itself. And even though it would only take a couple of seconds to do, would it be too hard to ask each person to sanitize their hands when they first come into the premises?
After a person has visited a dairy, service station or convenience store, whatever counter, door and shelf services they touched should be given a quick wipe with a sanitized wipe that is then thrown away. It would only take a few seconds, but it would go some way towards eliminating any harmful biological matter on the surface. But how often do you honestly see the operator of such businesses do that?
You might recall there being on TV One a programme, usually only lasting a few episodes, following the work that food safety inspectors do. Have you ever walked into a butchery, fish and chip shop or other place processing and selling meat products and thought, “this looks dirty – is it safe for me to be here?”? What did you do – did you walk out; did you tell the person behind the counter they needed to clean the place up?
We are a fairly laid back society, but COVID19 has succeeded in providing New Zealand with a reset that nothing else has managed to do around the world so successfully since World War 2. I can see a repeat of COVID19 happening in the future unless New Zealand and other countries take steps to improve hygiene across the board. It will not be COVID19 itself since as it is a virus, once the body comes up with a biological defence against it, the virus cannot return.
I can see that if we want things like COVID19 to completely disappear, we are going to have to view medical foreign aid to poorer countries as an investment in our own health. In much the same way the United States is going to have to change tack on how it provides aid to Latin American neighbours, Australia and New Zealand are going to have to do like wise with our Pasifika neighbours. Countries like Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are all going to need substantial long term investment by New Zealand and Australia in this regard.
How seriously we attempt to address this will significantly input into how well COVID19 and future viruses like it are kept at bay.