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Should we shelve our jewellery during the coronavirus?

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Published on 25 March 2020

How often are we washing our hands and our jewellery?
How often are we washing our hands and our jewellery?

While the message to wash our hands correctly has been drummed into our daily lives, playing a vital role in delaying the coronavirus peak, and buying precious time for the NHS to prepare against an influx of high dependency cases - there has been little advice about the jewellery we wear and potential dangers of not cleaning it properly.

Dr Derek Watson, Professor in Cultural Management at the University of Sunderland, has debated the issue for fashion bible Vogue's March issue, and argues that cleaning jewellery should become part of your routine, rather than giving up our precious gems.

Studies have shown that other coronaviruses, including SARS, are able to survive on surfaces anywhere from 24 hours on cardboard to as long as nine days on metal, glass and plastic, unless they are properly disinfected.

Medical advisors say there is a strong possibility that Covid-19 germs are traceable on your jewellery. Rings, watches, bracelets and fitness trackers should all be removed before washing hands so that you can properly clean them. And to avoid recontamination, the items themselves should also be thoroughly cleaned before you put them back on. Where there are fears of losing items down the plughole, the advice is to abandon all jewellery, as it could be a potential risk of causing infection.

For Dr Derek Watson, Associate Professor in Cultural Management at Sunderland, however, the convenience of consigning your jewels to the jewellery box for the foreseeable future should be balanced with “the psychological effect of wearing it and the importance of the feel-good factor right now”.

His public health work is focused on how people can dismantle bad habits and build good ones. “We have to ask ourselves: How hygienic are we? How often are we washing our hands and our jewellery?” he says. “It's all about regulating that behaviour and, like when you are learning to drive, making those habits automated. You’ve got to make cleaning your jewellery part of your routine.” 

His advice comes after Dr Watson last week shared his views on the battle against coronavirus and how this is more about winning a cultural mind-shift war.

“For many of us, the adoption of effective hand washing is a logical move to delay the spread of the virus.

“However, the challenge is ensuring that the cultural change becomes second nature. It is not a case of willpower as this is often short lived, you need only look at gym attendance and dieting in term of its sustained effectiveness.

“People need to build good habits whilst dismantling poor hygiene habits. They need to be self-reinforcing and to move from conscious action to automatic habituation.

“This ultimately takes time to be embed into their subconscious daily routine. Such cultural transformation cannot be done in isolation and requires the support of co-workers, management and the government.”