What we have learned from COVID-19 and what we already knew


Tatjana Ahmed, Housekeeping Manager and Regional Rooms Specialist, Grand Hyatt Dubai


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June 25, 2020
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What we have learned from COVID-19 and what we already knew

In 2016, I gave a presentation at the International Housekeepers Summit in Mumbai on ‘How to Prevent & Control infections’ - a topic that has always been close to my heart. The concept of infection control in housekeeping is both logical and a necessity. Here are a few slides from the presentation that tell you why.

Prevention is better than cure

• We know that protecting our employees and guests is our number one priority and that an illness caused through an infection in our hotel will seriously damage ones reputation and costs the business millions of $!

• Dubai is a Global hub and is exposed to risk from travelers. With strong inbound from Asia, Middle East and Far East, the likelihood of spreading infections will be appearing from these countries.

• It is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our employees and guests, which includes adequate infection prevention and control procedures.

• Taking precaution and ensuring to have the right tools and equipment to give a speedy response to illness and infections will be key.

Hand washing

• A global survey revealed that 65% “agree” that washing hands with soap and water is something they automatically do – however 26% “somewhat agree” and 8% “disagree”.

• Hands are one of the most common vehicles to transport microorganisms – bacteria to high risk products which can be contaminated in a number of ways.

• Lack of hand hygiene in the work place can often, therefore, be the root cause in many cases of sickness.

• Unless bacteria is removed effectively, they are likely to spread from hand to food contact surface, thereby presenting a cross contamination risk.

• Precaution: Provide antibacterial hand wash, sanitizing hand wash gel and hand wash training to all you staff!

80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch

"Touching food with contaminated hands spreads foodborne illnesses like Salmonella, E. Coli, Staph, and diarrheal infection. Proper hand washing can reduce diarrhea rates by 40%.

Touching the face with contaminated hands spreads illnesses like pneumonia, the cold, and the flu. Proper hand washing can reduce respiratory infections by close to 20%. Pneumonia remains the number one cause of childhood death The most critical times for hand washing are before preparing food and after going to the bathroom.

Only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food Less than 75% of women and less than 50% of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom Every time a toilet is flushed with the lid up, a fine mist containing bacteria such as E. Coli and Staph is spread over an area of 6 square meters. The area around sinks in public bathrooms is 90% covered in such bacteria.

The recommended washing time for hands is 15 seconds. The ideal washing time is 30 seconds.

• Most bacteria on our hands is on the fingertips and under the nails

• The number of bacteria on our fingertips doubles after using the bathroom

• Most people wash the palms of their hands and miss everything else

• Damp hands are 1,000x more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands

• Only 20% of people dry their hands after washing

• Re-usable cloth towels harbor millions of bacteria. Disposable paper towels are the most sanitary means of drying hands.

• Hand washing and hand hygiene initiatives greatly reduce the number of absences, sick leaves, and lost productivity.

• A study of Detroit school children showed that those who washed their hands had 24% fewer sick days due to respiratory illness and 51% fewer sick days due to upset stomach.

• In China, distribution of soap in primary schools resulted in 54% fewer sick days.

• The use of hand sanitizer in the classroom resulted in 20% fewer sick days across 16 different elementary schools.

And yes, the COVID-19 virus caught us by surprise. What we have learned is to adapt fast. It’s been an unprecedented time for the entire world. As we pause all our social activities and businesses, we had to quickly adapt to the new normal: face masks, hand gloves, face shields, sanitizers, temperature checks, social distancing, distance learning, home schooling, Tele- Yoga and many other new ways to manage our lives.

But, we also learned that health and wellness needs more priority in our daily routine. And keeping a rigid hygiene regime in our daily agenda, is also something we should have learned by now.






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