Hand Hygiene Day (5 May 2020): “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands”

Hand Hygiene Day is celebrated on 5th May every year. This year, the theme is “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands”.

Key Messages:

Each year the WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign aims to maintain a global
profile on the importance of hand hygiene in health care and to ‘bring people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement globally.

The main goal of the Global Hand Hygiene Day campaign is to recognize that handwashing is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Health workers and community members alike can play a role in preventing infections by practicing regular and frequent handwashing.

As part of the 2020 campaign, WHO and partners aim to:

  • Make hand hygiene a global priority
  • Inspire hand hygiene and behavior change
  • Engage with health care workers in their role in clean care and the prevention of infections.

WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands in the context of COVID-19

Hand Hygiene in the Community

You can play a critical part in fighting COVID-19

  • Hands have a crucial role in the transmission of COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 virus primarily spreads through droplet and contact transmission. Contact transmission means by touching infected people and/or contaminated objects or surfaces. Thus, your hands can spread virus to other surfaces and/or to your mouth, nose or eyes if you touch them.

Why is Hand Hygiene so important in preventing infections, including COVID-19?

  • Hand Hygiene is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus.
  • Community members can play a critical role in fighting COVID-19 by adopting frequent hand hygiene as part of their day-to-day practices.

Hand Hygiene in Health Care

Why is it important to participate in the WHO global hand hygiene campaign
for the fight against COVID-19?

  • The WHO global hand hygiene campaign SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands (SLCYH) mobilizes people around the world to increase adherence to hand hygiene in health care facilities, thus protecting health care workers and patient from COVID-19 and other pathogens.
  • Nurses and other health care workers are the front-line heroes saving lives from COVID-19. In alignment with the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the global hand hygiene campaign 2020 recognizes their critical role in the prevention of infections.
  • The campaign also contributes to the United Nations Secretary’s General’s Global Call to Action on WASH in health care facilities.

What do you need to know on hand hygiene best practices for COVID-19?

Hand washing

  • Evidence from both the SARS and COVID-19 epidemics, shows that hand hygiene is very important to protect health care workers from getting infected (Seto WH et al, “Lancet” 2003; Ran L et al, “Clin Infect Dis” 2020).
  • Hand washing in the community is highly effective to prevent both diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory illness (Jefferson T, et al. “BMJ” 2008). Thus, it is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent COVID 19 infection.


  • Alcohol-based hand rub products should contain at least 60% alcohol, should be certified and where supplies are limited or cost prohibitive can be made locally by carefully following WHO Guide.
  • Plain soap is effective at inactivating enveloped viruses such as the COVID-virus due to the oily surface membrane that is dissolved by soap, killing the virus (Sickbert-Bennett EE et al, “Am J Infect Control” 2005). In addition, hand washing removes germs through mechanical action (WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care 2009).
  • Chlorinated water at 0.05% is not recommended for routine hand hygiene because it has skin and other toxic effects, and soap is easy to find and can be used effectively.

Conducting hand hygiene at the right time, using the right technique, for the right duration is critical

2020-05-02 06_42_03-WHO_HH-Community-Campaign - Opera

Calls to Action

• Clean and safe care starts with you.


• Your hands make all the difference for mothers and babies.


IPC Leaders:
• Empower nurses and midwives in providing clean care.


Patients and Families:
• Safer care for you, with you.


Policy Makers:
• Increase nurse staffing levels to prevent infections and improve quality of care. Create the means to empower nurses and midwives.


Useful Links:

Link to the 5 May 2020 SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign site:


Link to WHO Guide to local production of Alcohol Based Handrub:


Link to WHO Hand Hygiene video (multiple languages):


Link to WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Healthcare:


Link to WHO page on Hand Hygiene Tools:


Link to WHO page on Infection Prevention and Control Tools:


Link to WHO guidance on Infection Prevention and Control when COVID-19 is suspected:




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