The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions is essential for protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Ensuring evidenced-based and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and health- care facilities will help prevent human-to-human transmission of, the virus that causes COVID-19.
This guidance was originally published in March 2020. This first update provides details on hand hygiene, sanitation, protecting WASH workers and supporting the continuation and strengthening of WASH services, especially in underserved areas. This additional information has been prepared in response to the many questions that WHO received about the prevention and control of COVID-19 in settings where WASH services are limited and where there is emerging evidence on the presence of viral fragments in excreta and untreated sewage.
The most important information concerning WASH and the COVID-19 virus is summarized here.
- Frequent and correct hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH practitioners should work to enable more frequent and regular hand hygiene by improving access to hand hygiene facilities and using multimodal approaches (refer to Hand hygiene practices) to support good hand hygiene behaviour. Performing hand hygiene at the right time, using the right technique with either alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water is critical.
- Existing WHO guidance on the safe management of drinking-water and sanitation services applies to the COVID-19 outbreak. Water disinfection and sanitation treatment can reduce viruses. Sanitation workers should have proper training and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and in many scenarios, a specific combination of PPE elements is recommended.
- Many health co-benefits can be realized by safely managing water and sanitation services, and by applying good hygiene practices.