Protocols for home quarantine patients

The Star, 8 Feb 2021

PETALING JAYA: Covid-19 patients under home quarantine must maintain strict hygiene standards, including when it comes to washing clothes and linen.

Prof Dr Victor Hoe from Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine said it is imperative that those under home quarantine should be helped by a caregiver.

“Some Category 1 and 2 patients who do not have comorbidities are allowed to remain at home and there should be another member of the household to assist them on the daily necessities, ” he said.

He urged people to look up the Health Ministry’s detailed guidelines on the handling of clothing and linen for Covid-19 patients.

“Another possible way to handle the clothing is to buy plastic bags that can dissolve in water and ask the Covid-19 patient to put all clothes in the bag and then put the bag in the washing machine.

“This is the method the laundry services staff in our hospital are doing for clothing and linen of Covid-19 patients, ” he said.

Using such plastic bags means one does not need to have a separate clothes hamper for the clothing and linen of Covid-19 patients.

His colleague, Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming, said guidelines concerning a patient’s laundry should be followed to prevent others in the same household from becoming infected.

She said as the virus can stay on surfaces, handling of a patient’s clothes and linen needs to be done with the utmost care.

“Besides wearing masks and gloves as well as maintaining hand hygiene, the caregiver should be aware that they must not shake the laundry before washing.

“The caregiver should also remember not to carry the unwashed laundry close to his or her body to avoid touching the contaminated laundry, ” she said.

She also suggested that if hot water is not available to wash the items by hand, the laundry could be soaked in water with 0.05% of chlorine for about 30 minutes before being rinsed.

Universiti Malaya expert virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar however said there is not much evidence so far that the Covid-19 virus can be transmitted through contact with soiled fabric.

He said droplets containing the virus that come into contact with fabric would be dried out, which would also cause the virus’ lipid envelope stuck to the fabric to die.

“Nonetheless, it is a good practice to take precautionary measures to protect against possible virus-contaminated aerosols, ” he said.

Covid-19 patients, such as Cherrie Wong, took extra precaution in maintaining hygiene when self-isolating at home.

Her fiance became her caregiver when she tested positive for Covid-19, buying food and groceries while she stayed in a separate room.

“For our laundry, we normally would wash our clothes by hand and later put them in the washing machine on a spin cycle.

“During the quarantine, we did not mix our clothes. We took care to wash his clothes first before washing mine, ” said the 32-year-old news journalist.

She added that they ate their food separately and even had designated cutlery for their food.

“We also tried not to communicate face-to-face, but if needed, we wore masks in the house, ” she said.