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Coronavirus: Complacency Is South Africa’s Biggest Challenge

The second wave of Coronavirus will arrive soon if South Africans become complacent and no longer take precautions. This was the warning from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who notes that as of the middle of October 2020, the number of new infections that have been remaining steady at around 10 000 a week, are starting to increase. “It’s still vitally important to remember that the virus is still here, and everyone should take steps to protect themselves and others from the infectious disease,” the minister explained. His warning came just days before he and his wife tested positive for the virus.

Until a safe, effective and widely available coronavirus vaccine is developed, there will continue to be a risk of infection, even as people get back to work, school and a more normal life. Nearly 8 months of wearing masks, sanitising and washing hands constantly are taking its toll and many are tired of the restrictive hygiene protocols. “Complacency is the biggest threat we face,” noted a WHO spokesman. Blood studies done around the world suggest that fewer than 1 in 10 people has had the coronavirus so far, leaving the potential for new waves of infection to spread.

“As business owners, employers and community leaders, we have a responsibility to protect those in our care from contracting the coronavirus”, says Prevan Naidoo, Director Hygiene Zone. “Proactive solutions are now available in South Africa to protect everyone, especially in high traffic areas.”  Naidoo is referring to the launch of an anti-microbial film developed by the Hexis Group in France. In a written statement the HEXIS Group announced that their patented technology, developed and marketed since 2013, is active in combating the viral load of coronaviruses. The characteristics of the antimicrobial protective films reduce coronavirus viraemia by 95% after contact of 15 minutes, and nearly 99.9% after contact of one hour (compared to an untreated membrane).

Internationally businesses like restaurants, gyms and retail outlets are offering customers increased protection by wrapping high touch zones like door handles, fitness equipment and food preparation areas with the specialised antimicrobial film. “It’s a good visual reminder, “says the owner of a restaurant in California, “It reminds customers that we are still in the midst of a pandemic while offering protection from silent spreaders – asymptomatic people who carry the virus but show no symptoms”. The transparent film has also become a common sight across South Korea, covering lift buttons, shopping trolley handles, touch screens and public toilet seats. “It’s an efficient way to offer protection to our customers,” says a retail owner, “Ensuring public spaces offer maximum protection is good for business and it’s our way of proving to customers that we take their safety seriously.”

All communal environments contain many different types of bacteria and microbes, and whilst not all are dangerous, some are. A case study carried out in two medium-sized primary schools in the UK measured the difference between an anti-microbial film protected school and a school where no film was applied. The schools were chosen for their similarities in use, location and demographics. The anti-microbial film was applied to computer desks, chairs, door handles, light switches, liquid soap dispensers, bookcases and storage units at the test school. A weekly collection of swab samples was collected before and after the school day and processed in a microbiology laboratory to isolate, count and identify the bacteria recovered. A comparison of the average number of bacteria recovered from the surfaces protected by the anti-microbial film revealed almost 96% less bacterial contamination than in the unprotected school.

“We trust that the public environments we go to every day are hygienically cleaned, “says Naidoo. “Anti-microbial films add a layer of protection and peace of mind. The film doesn’t miss spots or hard to reach places and it’s working 24/7.”  As complacency becomes the biggest factor in deciding whether South Africa is hit by a second Coronavirus wave, anti-microbial films may just be the proactive solution needed to help keep that threat at bay.

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