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Handwashing & hygiene

Effective handwashing and drying is the single most important thing you can do to help to reduce the spread of infections.

The most common way germs are spread is by people's hands. Germs are often harmless but they can also cause illnesses such as colds and stomach upsets, as well as more serious illnesses such as E. coli and flu. 

Effective handwashing and drying is the single most important thing you can do to help to reduce the spread of infections. Washing your hands properly with soap and warm water or using alcohol based hand gel and drying your hands thoroughly can help protect you, your family, children and others.

As with other types of viruses, the best method of preventing the spread of coronavirus is to practice good hand hygiene.

You can also prevent spreading transmission by covering your nose and mouth with a disposable, single-use tissue when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing your nose – remember to catch it, bin it, kill it.

Catch it, bin it, kill it

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze 
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Catch it, bin it, kill it poster (PDF, 436kb)

Workplace hygiene

Workplaces can help by having an infection control plan in place which includes:

  • providing clean handwashing facilities
  • offering alcohol-based hand sanitisers when regular facilities are not available (or to people out delivering or on the road)
  • providing boxes of tissues and encouraging their use
  • providing disinfectant wipes, especially for use in common areas
  • cleaning surfaces more often, such as door knobs, handles, stair railings, bars, desks, phones, kitchens, shared computers, cash registers, elevator buttons and restaurant tables/menus
  • reminding staff to not share cups, glasses, dishes and cutlery. Be sure dishes are washed in soap and water after use
  • removing magazines and papers from waiting areas or common rooms (such as tea rooms and kitchens)
  • considering cleaning a person's workstation or other areas where they have been if a person has suspected or identified with an infection
  • making sure ventilation systems are working properly

See also:  Guidance for cleaning in non-clinical settings.