New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) Ramping up its fight against coronavirus in densely-populated hotspots, especially after seven Covid-related deaths were reported from Mumbai's Dharavi slum, the Centre on Tuesday issued guidelines, warning that poorly-maintained community toilets can serve as a major source of viral infection.
The office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the Centre K. Vijay Raghavan released a handbook outlining guidelines, created specifically for areas where toilets, washing or bathing facilities are shared and which states/local bodies and communities can adopt to contain the spread of Covid-19, especially in densely-populated areas.
The guidelines categorically emphasise on catalysing behaviour change and promoting strict adherence to hygiene and sanitation practices. "It is important that all patients in the community with ILI (Influenza-like Illness) symptoms such as fever, chills, dry cough, running nose etc. immediately report to the nearest ASHA/Anganwadi/ frontline workers," said the handbook.
The Centre has emphasized on having a face cover for everyone in the community -- including children older than three years -- as people with no symptoms can infect others.
"Those living in close proximity with others should distance themselves as far as possible, ventilate the room with a fan and open window. Always use face covers when in close proximity," said the guidelines.
The handbook also emphasised that fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed, and milk bags and other packaged food items should also be washed with soap water before use.
The document identified common use surfaces such as handles, knobs, doors etc. as a major source of disease spread in a community. "It is recommended that foot operated hand washing stations are installed at all public areas to enable residents to frequently wash their hands... hand washing stations will control the spread of the disease while reducing the amount of water used. To eliminate use of soap, chlorine can be added to the water," said the handbook citing two designs for affordable and self-assembled hand washing stations.
"Individuals must not defecate in the open and instead must use the toilet. The toilet must be kept clean after every use. Poorly-used or maintained community toilets can serve as a major source of disease. To prevent infection caused by people who do not take proper precautions while using toilets, the following best practices must be observed," said the handbook, insisting on maintaining safe distancing from each other near toilets and in other public areas.