Sanitaryware: First Line of Defense Against COVID–19 Multilateral institutions and government agencies across countries have been regularly issuing guidelines and directives on safe water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH) as a preventive measure against the virus
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With the COVID–19 pandemic continuing to spread, the need for personal hygiene has become more pertinent than ever. Moreover, as the lockdown is lifted, it will only render people more vulnerable. One of the high-risk areas is community toilets and public restrooms. New-age smart toilets and restrooms could be an effective solution to the problem. The question is will sanitaryware manufacturers be able to rise to the challenge?
Impact of COVID–19 on water consumption
The importance of personal hygiene has increased multifold since the outbreak of COVID–19. Multilateral institutions and government agencies across countries have been regularly issuing guidelines and directives on safe water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH) as a preventive measure against the virus. Emphasis is specially laid on following good hand wash practices—a simple act, it goes a long way in saving lives.
Amid the increasing importance of personal hygiene and cleanliness of immediate surroundings, the average consumption of water per person has increased during the current pandemic.
Municipal authorities and regional administrative bodies across the globe report a 10–60% increase in water consumption from mid-March to May 2020, reflecting rise in awareness about personal hygiene amid the outbreak. Water consumption is likely to remain high in the coming months until the disease is controlled.
Community/public toilets: A major source of infection
COVID–19 is highly infectious and can spread through contact or contamination. As the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, a person can get infected by touching the surface hosting the droplets. The economically weaker sections of the society are highly exposed to the risk of contagion as they share community toilets. These toilets, especially in developing countries, are hardly clean or maintained, which increases the risk of infection manifold.
Shared restrooms in commercial spaces and offices could be risky as well. Accordingly, it would be beneficial to have suitable sanitation related facilities to check the spread of the infection. Having smart sanitation facilities, capable of "intelligent' use of water, could be the first line of defense against the virus.
As offices and shopping malls reopen, the usage of common restrooms will also increase. Given the hazards associated with restrooms, where innumerable hands touch the taps and faucets, certain measures (might have a cost component) need to be taken to ensure they are "safe' to use. Public or commercial restrooms could be designed around the concept of keeping them infection-free.
Some of the solutions in the short-to-medium term include:
Touch-free taps/faucets or sensor taps
Sensor doors which open and allow movement without individuals having to touch handles
Integrated wash basin with sensor taps/faucets and soap dispensers, along with hand dryers
Free standing dispensers with foot pedal kept at the entrance of the restroom; dispensers are tagged to a sensor, which provides real-time refill status of the dispensing solution
Toilets equipped with self-washing mechanism
Role of sanitaryware manufacturers
COVID–19 has forced the global community to take a relook at sanitation and hygiene measures, especially in public restrooms, leading to demand for their renovation.
It has created awareness and need for smart toilets and bathrooms. Their adoption is expected to increase, especially in North America and Europe. Keeping developing nations in mind, sanitaryware manufacturers must introduce smart sanitation solutions that are light on the budget. Once users start appreciating the value, there will be further uptake in medium- to high-priced smart sanitation solutions.
The pandemic has created opportunities for sanitaryware manufacturers—their offerings would help the world to fight the disease. Accordingly, stakeholders in the sanitaryware industry should rise to the challenge and channelize their resources to develop and introduce cost-effective, intelligent and sustainable solutions that would not only help in the battle against the current pandemic but also become the future of public hygiene.