WRC-RCSTT Webinar on WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE (WASH) AND COVID-19: IORA MEMBER STATES RESPONSE TO COVID-19 AND BEYOND, 31 August 2020 at 10 -12 a.m. South Africa Standard Time

Evidence indicates that the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted mainly through respiratory drops from an infected person or contact with an infected person or surface. However, recent research emanating worldwide has shown the presence of COVID-19 not only in respiratory pathways but could also be found in faeces and urine. Patients with diarrhoea have shown to have higher prevalence of the virus in their stools, the virus has been detected in anal swabs of patients and has been found on bathroom sanitary fixtures of an infected patient. While the faecal-oral disease transmission of COVID-19 has not been established, it does not exclude the possibility that this may not occur and there is always a possibility that respiratory drops from an infected patient may be transferred on drinking water taps and other sanitary fixtures.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) measures, when combined effectively, have been proven to reduce disease transmission. While initially developed for waterborne diseases, they could be equally effective for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in public and shared facilities and in homes. The following WASH measures are particularly important: i) the availability of safe drinking for both infected and healthy individuals, for cleaning and disinfection purpose; ii) appropriate hand washing practices; and iii) implementation of appropriate sanitation technologies and associated best practices, including Operation, Health and Safety (OHS) of municipal and health-care workers, implementation of appropriate cleaning and disinfection protocols and management systems; and iv) the safe management of human faecal wastes and protective/cleaning/disinfection material and reagents. However, without access to clean drinking water (municipality or household treated) and proper sanitation system, it is impossible to practice good hygiene and curb the virus transmission. The deployment of innovative solutions to speed up the provision of this essential services to the people, promote joint learning and sharing of information and data amongst IORA Member States is thus of crucial importance especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6).