One way through which COVID-19 spreads is contact with contaminated objects, animals, or humans. Streets are meeting points for contacts as people must move from one end to another for various activities. During a pandemic, streets become not only meeting points but also potential hotspots for contaminations and spread. It is therefore imperative, especially as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, to launch preventive measures for stopping virus propagation in on the streets. Our project intends to install handwashing stations throughout public streets, starting in the Netherlands as a pilot country. Our system prototype has been designed for easy and quick handwashing by users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Currently, most handwashing devices in public spaces are manually operated, hence facilitating microbial contaminations. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and prevent another pandemic wave of any other disease associated with sanitation and hygiene, we are proposing first a short-term design for a foot-operated system followed by a long-term design for a sensor-activated system for public handwashing. The foot-operated system would entail a mechanically operated foot pedal used to pump water and soap. Considering the simplicity and therefore potential as a more robust solution, we plan to implement this design first. Later, once we have better capability to establish auto-consumption infrastructure, we will implement the long-term design for a sensor-activated system, which would entail an automatic ON/OFF switch activated by motion of hands under the tap.
Installing these public handwashing stations are useful and beneficial in various situations. In the Netherlands, for instance, they would add much needed sanitation for existing public urinals by offering users a direct place for handwashing, which currently does not exist. Overall, they would fill the current gaps regarding lack of accessible public sanitation. While public places like restaurants have restrooms with handwashing options, they are usually reserved for customers, and those at train stations require you to pay and are not conveniently located for just people out and about on the street who may not necessarily need a restroom but simply access to clean water to handwash after, say, using an ATM or during warm days when everyone is hanging out in outdoors.
So—perhaps not for this summer—but imagine next summer when pick-nicking with friends at the park. You stopped by Albert Heijn to pick up some bread and spreads and fruits to share with the group. You should definitely wash your hands before digging in, but currently there are no handwashing facilities at any park that is not part of an establishment. This is just one instance among many for which public handwashing stations are needed.
Again, as lockdown restrictions are relaxed in the coming months, this underlines the need and urgency for on-street solutions such as public handwashing stations.