Importance of handwashing 'forgotten' amid mixed messaging claims Bradford health expert

Prof Mahendra Patel. Picture: The University of BradfordProf Mahendra Patel. Picture: The University of Bradford
Prof Mahendra Patel. Picture: The University of Bradford
A Bradford academic and healthcare campaigner has urged the public to go back to basics when it comes to virus prevention and spread the message that “we are our own vaccine”'.

Pharmacist Professor Mahendra Patel, a board member of the Royal Society of Pharmacists and lecturer at the University of Bradford, said he fears the importance of handwashing has been forgotten amid confusing messages and the encouragement of mask wearing and social distancing.

He also urged the Government to be proactive ahead of the upcoming celebrations for Diwali and Christmas, to avoid last minute changes in rules like what happened with the local lockdowns on the eve of Eid-ul-Adha at the end of July.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Then, restrictions were brought in across swathes of West Yorkshire, in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

Prof Patel told the Yorkshire Post: “It’s almost as if the message about hand washing has gone down the pecking order. We talk about masks and social distancing but hand hygiene seems to have been forgotten about, critically important in homes and workplaces following the easing of national lockdown.

“We know there are issues with the development of a vaccine. Hand washing is vitally important - if we maintain hand hygiene, social distancing and continue to wear masks then we are our own vaccine.”

He criticised the “mixed messaging” from the Government and said a clearer communications strategy was needed to drill home the importance of handwashing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Protecting ourselves from coronavirus is all in our hands, and there is no clearer slogan than ‘we are our own vaccine’,” he added.

Clear communications was also vital ahead of the Hindu holiday of Diwali, on November 14, and Christmas celebrations in December.

Prof Patel said: “There needs to be a well thought out message, direct to our Hindu communities, of which there are many across Yorkshire, from Sheffield to Leeds, Bradford and North Yorkshire, that will mobilise and empower communities. Engaging with communities is so important.

“That same thought needs to be had in advance of the winter epidemic period and Christmas and New Year. Let’s not act after the event — the price to pay in terms of lives affected is far too expensive ”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

New rules on gatherings are expected to be announced by the Prime Minister at a press conference at 4pm today. Any gatherings, inside or outside, are expected to be limited to six people and a public health message is expected to be reinforced.

Speaking on Virgin Radio this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new rules were expected to be implemented for the “foreseeable”future.

He said: “I hope the combination of the new generation of testing and potentially a vaccine means we can get back to a Christmas everyone wants to see.”

When asked if there was the possibility of a “window” in the rules for Christmas, if the public responded to the guidance, he said: “That is the incentive, but Christmas is a long way off.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said he “won’t rule out” the possibility of gatherings of more than six by Christmas, but added: “We don’t want the spike going much further. We have seen the spike continue to go up in France and Spain. We can control this as a society. We all have to play our part.

“For the foreseeable future, the rule is super-simple and we will be putting out loads of communication. Wash your hands, cover your face, and keep that social distancing.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.