The primary route of transmission of COVID-19 is person to person, and the closer we are to one another, and the more boisterous and lively we are, the likelier it is that the virus will spread. Droplets of the virus are contained in the aerosols in our breath, and those droplets can be transmitted to surfaces when we speak loudly, cough or sneeze. If another person then touches that surface – say, a table – and then touches their face, they could then become infected with the virus. And so community transmission occurs.
Dr Greg Whiteley is an Adjunct Fellow in the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University and is also the chairman of Whiteley Corporation, a therapeutic goods manufacturing company focused on infection prevention.
According to Dr Whiteley other than maintaining social distancing, the single most important thing a venue can do to diminish the risk of community transmission of COVID-19, is to have someone regularly cleaning surfaces within the venue throughout the day.
“The simple act of using a cleaning product with a disposable cloth or towelling is a really powerful, non-expensive way to mitigate that risk. But the cloth or paper towel needs to be changed regularly or else it can spread germs from surface to surface”
An effective cleaning strategy
As Dr Whiteley stresses, it’s important to ensure that the cloth used to clean is being replaced regularly. Ideally a new cloth would be used on every new surface. Using one cloth to wipe down dozens of different tables and chairs can in fact increase the risk of infection, as you could be picking up the virus from one surface, and then spreading it to the others via the cloth.
“If you’re cleaning regularly, then you also need to get rid of the cleaning cloth regularly. You either need to use disposable wipesor have lots of reusable microfiber which can then be laundered.”
The other part of the process that is often overlooked is that it’s important to clean with a cloth in one direction only.
“There’s really good research data that says the simple principle should be that you should use one cloth on only one surface, and only use it in one direction. If you imagine cleaning a window, when you wipe back and forwards you create streaks, smearing the dirt and grime around. The same principle applies to ridding surfaces of the virus,” explains Dr Whiteley.
It’s important as well to focus on high-touch areas within a venue, so pay particular attention when cleaning to things like the tops of chairs, handrails, ATMs and door handles or push plates. The last part of the cleaning strategy should be an end-of-day disinfecting of all of these high-touch surfaces.
Choosing cleaning products
In response to the pandemic, the market is currently flooded with cleaning products claiming to kill the virus. When selecting a product, the most important thing to look for is that it has been approved by the Federal Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). There are roughly 40 products that have this approval, so there’s a good range to choose from.
But it’s also important that the cleaning and disinfecting products you use don’t end up counter-reacting or neutralising each other, so it can be useful to buy complimentary products from the same range or brand. Dr Whiteley shared an example of using his own products.
“When I was doing my PhD in a laboratory, my method of disinfecting the bench was basically to spray the bench first of all with Viraclean®, and using the V-Wipes to make sure I’ve cleaned the surface thoroughly, and then I would wipe off any residue with a disposable towel. Now that’s in a micro lab, but if you compare it to a pub or a club, that’s a very good way of doing it.
“You’ve got these disposable wipes, and you can spray and wipe the surface and get a really good outcome knowing the detergent and the disinfectant won’t neutralise one another. And that gives you the best chance of making sure that you’ve got a full removal of the virus and disinfection of the surface.”
Dr Whiteley also noted that many businesses are now mistakenly using spray-gun disinfectants as an exclusive solution to killing the virus. While it’s fine to do, he says it’s imperative to first enact a cleaning strategy, otherwise a spray disinfectant will just hold everything in place.
The most fundamental strategies really are best in combatting the virus in venue.
“The simple act of proper cleaning, followed by the simple act of disinfection is the most thorough way to ensure that surfaces are rendered safe.”