For the general public, washing your hands regularly is actually a better way to prevent COVID-19 than wearing gloves, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News .
The agency has previously recommended Canadians distanced themselves and wore face masks in public as a precaution, but has remained silent so far on the question of whether people should wear consumer-grade disposable gloves.
PHAC’s opinion was prompted by a CBC News investigation into the government’s position on the use of gloves. PHAC announced on Saturday that it will soon update its website with the information.
Dianne Preston of Guelph, Ont., Said she wears gloves while shopping, although she was not sure it would protect her from the coronavirus.
“I really have no idea if it really helps or anything, but I feel a little better doing it,” she said. “I don’t think it can hurt. “
PHAC has stated that wearing gloves can cause problems if the wearer touches a contaminated surface and then touches his face. The virus can infect people by entering the eyes, nose or mouth.
Microbiologist Keith Warriner agrees that gloves are not the best solution.
“It gives you that false security,” said Warriner, a professor at the University of Guelph. “If you wear gloves, you are less likely to wash your hands, which is one of the best strategies. “
Warriner also warns that if disposable gloves are not removed properly, people may become contaminated.
What about retail workers?
As provinces loosen COVID-19 restrictions and allow more businesses to open, some Canadians are wondering if retail workers should wear gloves.
Food service chains Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Starbucks each require employees to wear face masks, but have different policies on disposable gloves.
Tim Hortons requires all workers to wear them, McDonald’s makes them available to those who serve customers and handle money, and Starbucks said employees have the “ability” to wear gloves.
On its website, PHAC released recommendations for businesses, advising employees to wear disposable gloves if they come into contact with infected people or surfaces. The agency also said that “wearing disposable gloves does not eliminate the need for frequent hand washing.”
Warriner said wearing gloves in the workplace can also lead to a false sense of security, so workers cannot wash their hands – and change their gloves – as often as they should.
“It’s this type of compensation for hand washing that is a real concern,” said Warriner. “They are going to be contaminated by [handling] money and then they’ll go get a donut. ”
Watch | Why gloves don’t do much to protect you from COVID-19:
Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Starbucks each reported having strict handwashing protocols for employees.
“We don’t consider gloves to be a good substitute for thorough hand washing,” Tim Hortons spokesperson Michael Oliveira said in an email. “Team members always wash their hands thoroughly each time they change gloves. “
McDonald’s has criticized some customers on social media for not all of its employees wearing gloves.
In response, the fast-food chain praised the merits of hand washing with statements on Twitter such as: “When handling food, gloves can actually be a risk as opposed to protection. “
Hi Casey. Some tasks require our staff to wear gloves and others do not. Gloves can give us a false sense of security and can get dirty or tear. We believe that hand washing is a more effective way of ensuring food security when performing certain tasks.
The grocer puts an end to the compulsory gloves policy
Patty Nowlin, the owner of a grocery store in Alberta, adopted many protective measures during the pandemic. But last month, it removed its policy that all employees wear disposable gloves after concluding that it could do more harm than help.
“When people were wearing gloves, I just wondered if they washed their hands that often, or [changing] these gloves as often as they would wash their hands, “said Nowlin, owner of the Sunnyside Natural Market in Calgary.
Nowlin said another influencing factor was seeing a customer enter his store with dirty gloves.
“I noticed that where your fingers are, they were dirty,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, have they worn these gloves every time they go out?’ “
Nowlin said workers still wear gloves for certain tasks – such as cleaning with strong disinfectants – but, if not, they rely on the proven practice of careful hand washing.
“We always remind people all the time, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.” “
After hearing PHAC’s recommendation to wear gloves, client Preston plans to give up her own strategy of wearing gloves when shopping for groceries and sticking to hand washing.
“If they say it won’t help, then there’s no point in really doing it. “