World Hand Hygiene Day a reminder of its critical role in preventing COVID-19 spread

5 May 2020 | Infection Prevention & Control

World Hand Hygiene Day on Tuesday 5 May is a timely reminder of the critical role good hand hygiene practice plays in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Dr Sally Roberts, clinical lead for the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s infection prevention and control programme, says it’s vitally important for health care workers to practise good hand hygiene.

'It is one of the simplest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections, which makes it a key patient safety priority.

'The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home to all of us the importance of good infection prevention and control practices. Nurses and other health care workers are some of the frontline heroes saving lives during this pandemic.

'As we have seen over the last few months, an infection spread by unclean hands can have a devastating impact on a patient and their family and whānau.

'As well as responding to the pandemic, New Zealand is entering flu season and we know good hand hygiene also plays a major role in preventing the spread of flu and other respiratory diseases.'

The theme for this year’s World Health Organization (WHO) World Hand Hygiene Day is ‘Nurses and midwives, clean care is in your hands'.

'This year links to the WHO’s international year of the nurse and the midwife 2020 in honour of the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. It recognises the vital role nurses and midwives play in infection prevention and control through good hand hygiene practice,' says Dr Roberts.

Dr Roberts says World Hand Hygiene Day is also an opportunity to celebrate hand hygiene achievements.

'Hand Hygiene New Zealand is one component of the Commission's infection prevention and control programme’s targeted improvement initiatives, which aim to reduce healthcare-associated infections. It uses the WHO’s 5 moments for hand hygiene framework to drive culture change and establish best hand hygiene practice for every patient, every time.'

The Commission’s latest Hand Hygiene New Zealand audit report shows 17 district health boards achieved at or above the national target of 80 percent compliance compared with 12 in the previous audit period. Nationally, the compliance rate is 85 percent, which has climbed steadily from 62 percent in 2012.

'We thank district health board and private surgical hospital infection prevention and control teams and health care workers for their commitment to improving hand hygiene practice and preventing harm to patients, especially as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,' says Dr Roberts.

The Commission has produced a new hand hygiene poster for hospitals and other health care facilities involved in the Hand Hygiene New Zealand programme. It can be downloaded from our website, along with other resources to mark World Hand Hygiene Day, including a 'certificate of recognition' to reward and thank nurses, midwives or other health care workers for their dedication to and excellence in hand hygiene and infection protection and control best practice.

There are also details of the WHO’s weekly webinar programme to discuss infection prevention and control and hand hygiene topics in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic response. These webinars are recorded so they can be accessed following the live webinar.

More information about World Hand Hygiene Day can be found on the Commission and WHO websites:

Last updated 05/05/2020