GA-FDD issues advisory for Cleaning and Disinfection to stop spread of COVID-19

Notes importance of cleaning and disinfecting for sanitation purposes during and after COVID-19

The Government Analyst – Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) in collaboration with the Environmental Health Unit (EHU), Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), is advising the general public on the principles of cleaning followed by disinfection of environmental surfaces and objects in households, institutions, eating houses/food service establishments and manufacturing premises.

This is to reduce the risk associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, where strict cleaning and disinfecting measures must be employed.

Cleaning is the process of applying energy to remove dirt (organic matter) from frequently touched or used surfaces and objects using soap and water or detergents, along with some mechanical action (brushing, wiping or scrubbing).

Cleaning does not kill microorganisms (germs) such as the COVID-19 virus but it reduces significantly the number of germs that may be present on a surface or an object thereby reducing its spread.

Disinfection is the process of using chemicals to kill microorganisms – germs such as the COVID-19 virus.

For the process of disinfection to be effective it must be applied after surfaces or objects are cleaned. Also, the length of time the disinfectant is in contact with the surface or object (contact time) must be over one (1) minute or as is otherwise stated on the label.

Examples of disinfectant solutions are 70-90 percent concentration alcohol (ethanol/isopropanol), Chlorine-based products most popular being sodium hypochlorite – (household bleach 5-6 percent solution and diluted to 0.05% -500 ppm or 0.5% -5000 ppm), hydrogen peroxide – 0.5 percent and the popular disinfectant  sprays which in most cases are a combination of an alcohol, an alkali and/or quaternary ammonium compound.

Persons are reminded not to mix cleaning solutions with disinfectants in an attempt to clean and disinfect surfaces or objects at the same time because fatal or dangerous gases can be created with such mixtures.

More importantly, the effect of the disinfectant will be reduced when it is mixed with a detergent, resulting in microorganisms (germs) such as the Covid-19 virus not being killed. Consumers are reminded also to pay close attention to the Instruction of Use section of labels when applying disinfectants.

Commonly used surfaces and objects that must be cleaned followed by disinfection to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus are tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks among other commonly used surfaces or substances in households, institutions and commercial premises.

Even though the COVID-19 respiratory virus spread – at the time of this advisory – has not been conclusively linked to contaminated surfaces or objects, evidence of past coronaviruses’ mode of transmission makes the above-mentioned points relevant in the interest of the public’s health.

The New England Journal of Medicine in published research findings and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA suggest that the COVID-19 virus can remain on surfaces or objects such as copper for four (4) hours; on cardboard, cloth and wood for one (1) day, on glass for two (2) days, and stainless steel and plastic for a long as four (4) days.

Therefore, as our Guyana is about to ease out of restrictions established to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the GA-FDD and EHU-MoPH are aware of an upsurge in the manufacturing, importation and distribution of cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

In response, the GA-FDD along with the Environmental Health Officers from the EHU-MoPH will continue actively sampling and analysing disinfectants to determine inter-alia, percent alcohol, percent free chlorine and phenol coefficient – to determine disinfectant’s germicidal strength.

Disinfectants tested that are found not to comply or follow established standards will be removed from circulation on our local market and those imported will be restricted from being released for use in Guyana.

This will be in accordance with provisions made in the Laws of Guyana – Food and Drug Act Chapter 34:03 and the Food and Drug Regulation of 1977.

Inspectors and Environmental Health Officers in the regions and other municipalities of Guyana will be actively inspecting and swabbing surfaces in eating houses/food service establishments and   manufacturing premises to ensure they are properly disinfected (sanitised – meaning being free of germs) to prevent or reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus on contaminated environmental surfaces or objects.

Dr. Marlan Cole. MPH, DrPH, Director Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD)