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Covid-19: We need new thinking and new leadership

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 12 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4358

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Coronavirus contact transmission - answering a neglected hazard

Dear Editor

Your editor, Fiona Godlee, is right to raise timely issues of concern about the immediate future management of the COVID-19 pandemic [1], and many reference publications emphasise the need for public awareness of recommended precautions [2]. The World Health Organisation has produced categorised codes of practice [3], though such advice is not always followed by the authorities [4]. Contact transmission of viruses is well documented [5], so washing of hands with soap and sanitisation with ethanol are globally recognised as essential.

However, soap can exacerbate contact dermatitis [6] while ingested ethanol hand rubs have led to alcohol poisoning [7] and are inflammable [8]. I now propose that wearing cotton gloves would significantly reduce contact transmission [9]. The fabric will prevent viruses from being deposited on surfaces by contaminated hands, and will prevent viruses on handrails, doorknobs and handles from contacting the skin of the wearer. Unlike facemasks, which can admit the passage of leaked air, cotton gloves control manual cross-contamination and, if carefully removed and laundered, could minimise contact transmission of the virus.

1. Godlee, F. Covid-19: We need new thinking and new leadership, BMJ 2020;371:m4358
2. Anon. Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, London: Public Health England, 5 November 2020.
3. Anon. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public, Geneva: WHO, 13 October 2020
4. Pollock, A. Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice? BMJ 2020;368:m1284
5. Ford, Brian J. & Slade J. Discharge to the Environment of Viruses in Wastewater, Sludges and Aerosols, Viral Pollution of the Environment: 3-15, ISBN: 0-8493-6245-8, Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1983
6. Rashid, RS. Contact dermatitis, BMJ 2016;353:i3299
7. Archer, JRH. Alcohol hand rubs: hygiene and hazard BMJ 2007;335:1154
8. Bryant KA, Bryant A, Pearce J & Stover, Flash fire associated with the use of alcohol-based antiseptic agent, American Journal of Infection Control, 2002, 30:256-257. DOI: 10.1067/mic.2002.125395
9. Ford, Brian J. Nonscience Returns p 278, Yarmouth: Curtis Press.

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 November 2020
Brian J Ford
biologist, university fellow, author
Rothay House, Mayfield Road, Eastrea, Cambridge PE7 2AY