Advice from the World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a technical brief on “Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19” on 3 March 2020. It was then updated in 19 March 2020, with the updated version available here.

This technical brief is written, in particular, for water and sanitation practitioners and providers. It is also for health care providers who want to know more about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) risks and practices.

The most important information concerning WASH and the COVID-19 virus is summarized here:

  • Frequent and proper hand hygiene is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH practitioners should work to enable more frequent and regular hand hygiene by improving facilities and using proven behaviour change techniques.
  • WHO guidance on the safe management of drinking-water and sanitation services applies to the COVID-19 outbreak. Extra measures are not needed. In particular, disinfection will facilitate more rapid die-off of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Many co-benefits will be realized by safely managing water and sanitation services and applying good hygiene practices. Such efforts will prevent many other infectious diseases, which cause millions of deaths each year.

The WHO states that “currently, there is no evidence about the survival of the COVID-19 virus in drinking-water or sewage. The morphology and chemical structure of the COVID-19 virus are similar to those of other surrogate human coronaviruses for which there are data about both survival in the environment and effective inactivation measures”.

Thus, this brief draws upon the existing evidence base and, more generally, existing WHO guidance on how to protect against viruses in sewage and drinking-water. This document is based on the current knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and it will be updated as new information becomes available.