Soap in toilets the front line of cleanliness


  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020

THE basic protective measure against Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is to “wash our hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if our hands are not visibly dirty.” WHO adds that hands should be washed thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds after toilet use, before eating, after coughing or sneezing and when hands are visibly dirty.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has urged the private sector to install thermal scanners in their premises, but at the price of about RM40,000 each, this is a very costly venture. Hence, it would be more practical to provide hand sanitisers at various parts of the premises and soap (liquid or foam) in the toilets.

The Health Ministry should advise all concerned to take such simple and straightforward preventive measures to help stop the spread of Covid-19. But go to toilets at shopping complexes, department stores, restaurants or cinemas and chances are that there is no soap available for washing of hands. The usual reason given by the janitor is that supplies have run out.

Government offices such as Road Transport Department and Immigration do not fare any better. In some cases, there isn’t even any soap dispensers! I have visited hospitals and government schools and seen the same situation in these places as well. Sadly, it’s business as usual. The fact is that the soap dispensers are perpetually empty, and in some schools there are no soap dispensers at all.

In public recreational parks such as at Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Taman Tasik, not only are the toilets poorly maintained, but finding one with soap is as good as striking a lottery.

Malaysia is known for its most unhygienic toilets. In August last year, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he was downright peeved by dirty public toilets because it is a reflection of Malaysians’ lack of civic consciousness.

The Covid-19 outbreak is one more good reason why serious attention should be given to the cleanliness of our toilets and the provision of basic amenities such as soap and toilet paper.

Could the Finance Ministry provide an allocation to government departments and agencies to ensure that toilets in their premises have an adequate supply of soap?

The private sector and government-linked companies should take their own initiatives to ensure all our toilets have adequate soap supplies. Larger corporations could adopt schools and provide a year’s supply of soap and hand sanitisers to them and GLCs could adopt selected hospitals and public parks for this purpose. Hopefully, Covid-19 will provide the impetus for us to be more concerned over the cleanliness of our toilets.

POLA SINGH

Kuala Lumpur


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