Cosmetics chain Lush is opening its doors for passersby to walk in and wash their hands for free as government advice flags better basic hygiene as a way to help halt the spread of coronavirus.
Posters are going up in the ethical beauty chain’s windows advertising what it says is a public service. Those taking advantage of its sinks will be given soap to use and are under no obligation to buy anything.
“The simplest thing you can do to not get a virus is to regularly wash your hands,” said Lush’s chief executive, Mark Constantine. “So we’re saying people can come in off the street and wash their hands in our place. We’ve got loads of soap and plenty of hot water.”
The Poole-based retailer, best-known for its fragrant bars of soap and bath bombs, said strict measures to contain the virus had hit sales in Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. Japan is Lush’s second biggest market after the UK.
The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.
The UN agency advises people to:
- Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
- Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
- Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
- Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.
Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.
Lush said shopper numbers had fallen sharply in its stores in northern Italy, where the country’s outbreak is centred. It was too early to gauge the overall financial impact on the privately owned group, which has 900 shops in 48 countries, it said.
Constantine said public alarm surrounding Covid-19 was an opportunity to highlight the role of basic hygiene in minimising the spread of viruses, whether flu or coronavirus. “If people just get in the habit of washing their hands properly, it will make a dramatic difference to public health.”