Washing Hands More Potent than Using Mask to tackle COVID-19: IDI

Following the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) asserted that a face mask is only for sick people, while healthy ones are advised to regularly wash hands using clean running water and soap.

"Washing hands is more effective than wearing a mask for healthy people [to avoid viruses]. Masks are preferred for sick people," said Erlina Burhan, the lung specialist doctor at Persahabatan Hospital, during an event in light of the novel coronavirus at the IDI headquarters in Jakarta on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

Erlina underlined that people with respiratory diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis are strongly advised to wear a mask because the virus could be transmitted through droplets expelled from the mouth and nose of sick people to various surfaces, such as chairs, tables, or poles of trains or buses.

These objects are commonly touched by many, and they could catch the virus by this transmission method. However, viruses could be killed off by washing hands with soap as its fat layers and structures are damaged by the soap, the doctor added.

She elaborated that washing hands with soap and cleaning them under running water for 20 seconds is enough to kill germs on hands. "Hand sanitizer is not necessarily needed. Those who have access to water should just use water and soap," Erlina remarked.

Erlina further called on the public not to panic over the COVID-19 outbreak. "Let's not be confused by this disease with avian flu that has a high mortality rate. The mortality rate [of the novel coronavirus] is 2-3 percent and the recovery rate is 97 percent. So don't panic too much. There are many diseases with a higher mortality rate, you see," she concluded.


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