Police and Australian Defence Force (ADF) staff have been pictured patrolling the streets of Melbourne enforcing a new rule on mask wearing in public that came into effect yesterday.
But among the pictures of the first patrols, another item of personal protective equipment was evident on some staff: gloves.
Some, but not all, police and military workers wore blue surgical gloves along with their uniforms and masks while walking in the city.
So should we all be wearing gloves while out and about? Here’s the official advice on the matter.
ARE GLOVES RECOMMENDED TO FIGHT INFECTION?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published an infographic that explains washing your bare hands is more effective than wearing gloves in terms of preventing coronavirus infection while out in public for those in non-healthcare settings.
“Regularly washing your bare hands offers more protection against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves,” it states.
The Australian Health Department recommends wearing a mask and gloves while treating a member of your household who has COVID-19, or cleaning their room, ensuring hands are washed thoroughly before and after putting them on.
For healthcare workers, gloves are an integral part of PPE used when treating someone that is confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19.
Safe Work Australia states that “physical distancing and maintaining good hygiene is the best defence against the spread of COVID-19 and will usually be a better control measure than wearing gloves.”
“Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent ethanol or 70 per cent isopropanol as the active ingredient can help to minimise the spread of germs,” it notes, under advice for employers.
“While gloves (such as disposable or multi-use) should still be used for some practices (such as food handling, cleaning, gardening and trades), washing hands with soap and water is one of the best defences to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The issue is that if gloves are not used correctly or a person then touches their face, they can be rendered ineffective.
“When a person wears gloves, they may come into contact with germs which are then transferred to other objects or their face if they don’t replace and dispose of or clean their gloves between tasks. Gloves are not a substitute for frequent hand washing. Complacency while wearing gloves can reduce hand hygiene,” Safe Work states.
Meanwhile the Australian Medical Association states that avoiding touching your face is an important way of slowing the spread of the disease.
It says wearing gloves and folding your hands in your lap can be a good reminder not to touch your face.
At 11.59pm on Wednesday, wearing a mask in public became mandatory in Victoria with a $ 200 fine for noncompliance. However the official advice made no mention of gloves on Victoria’s Health Department website.
“The best way to protect other people against coronavirus (COVID-19) is staying home when you feel unwell, keeping 1.5 metres apart, wash your hands often, and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. Face coverings add an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones,” it reads.
Overseas, the US Centres for Disease Control says that “for the general public, wearing gloves is not necessary in most situations, like running errands”.
Instead, it recommends wearing gloves while cleaning or caring for someone sick and practising social distancing, handwashing and using a face mask to protect against COVID-19.
“Wearing gloves outside of these instances (for example, when using a shopping cart or using an ATM) will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs,” it said.
“The best way to protect yourself from germs when running errands and after going out is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol.”
Similarly, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention argues there is “insufficient evidence to recommend the regular use of gloves as a preventive measure in the context of COVID-19 to the public and to people in most occupations.”
“Use of gloves in the community may lead to the misconception that hand hygiene practices can be neglected,” it stated, saying that the waste can also cause environmental damage.
The exception is medical settings where gloves are crucial to protect healthcare workers from blood and other bodily fluids.
‘YOU MIGHT BE DOING IT WRONG’
An article by Victoria University’s Professor in Global Public Health, Maximilian de Courten and Monash University’s specialist physician Barbora de Courten published in The Conversation entitled, Are you wearing gloves or a mask to the shops? You might be doing it wrong, claims the evidence on whether wearing a mask and gloves will protect you is “mixed and largely inconclusive.”
The authors state that while gloves prevent the spread of germs if used properly – and are an integral part of PPE for healthcare workers – they must be used properly.
“If you’re suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and you’re isolating at home, Australian guidelines recommend anyone wanting to clean your room should put on a mask and gloves before entering,” the article reads.
“However, gloves have not been recommended as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 for the average citizen. That’s largely because of the evidence we have about how the disease is, and isn’t, transmitted.”
“The virus is not absorbed through skin, so you can’t contract COVID-19 through touch alone. To acquire coronavirus through touch, you would have to touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face.”
“Although it is possible, scientists believe a much smaller proportion of infections happen this way, as compared to when an uninfected person inhales virus-carrying droplets emitted directly from an infected person.”
The authors said while there is no evidence that gloves provide protection in the community, if you do wear them they must be taken on and off properly.
“Importantly, if you still touch your face with your gloved hands – or even touch your mobile phone – this renders the gloves useless,” they wrote.
“And if you’re not careful, you can also contaminate your hands when you put on or take off gloves.”
Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Force have been contacted for comment.
HOW TO SAFELY REMOVE GLOVES
1 – Grasp the outside of one glove at the wrist. Do not touch your bare skin.
2 – Peel the glove away from your body, pulling it inside out.
3 – Hold the glove you just removed in your gloved hand.
4 – Peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist.
5 – Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second.
6 – Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second.
7 – Wash your hands thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, immediately after removing your gloves.
Source: The Conversation