The World Health Organization has acknowledged the shortcomings of conventional public toilet design, distributing advice on safe hand washing that instructs users that in order to be protected from the virus
The global pandemic has exposed fundamental flaws in the use of public toilets which directs human to maintain hygiene etiquette.
The outbreak calls for serious rethinking in the building codes and design to all the future structures complying with infection control measures, according to public health experts, designers and architects, reported The Guardian.
Some of them suggested, innovations include a greater uptake of sensor taps, fully self-cleaning cubicles, designing exits that don't require human contact, and having bathroom attendants. After an individual is done with these, washing hands with sanitiser might also become an essential rule.
Proponents of these ideas said, they would improve hygiene by minimising the amount of exposure to potentially infected surfaces and also boost public confidence in the cleanliness of public conveniences, with some arguing the net effect would even be good for the post-pandemic economic recovery.
The World Health Organization has acknowledged the shortcomings of conventional public toilet design, distributing advice on safe hand washing that instructs users that in order to be protected from the virus.
Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the Australian National University said, the surfaces of taps and doors are a problem in public bathrooms, particularly in relation to viruses shown to be present in faecal matter.
"The major way coronavirus is transmitted is via respiratory droplets, so you can catch it off surfaces that your hands touch ... There are other ways, it can even carry in faeces too. About 60% of patients show that," Collignon said.
"We need to have public bathrooms open up as lockdowns ease, but the more non-touch we have the better. Taps that you activate by sensor need to be considered," he added.
Collignon said, infection control is not a priority in building design, and more input is needed from health professionals.
"Infection control and protections should be as vital to bathroom design as fire safety. You can't design anything these days without fire safety in mind, but when it comes to infection prevention, well, when you have to save some money, that often gets compromised. Because it's about time we have a standard code for infection control when building. There's a cost in not doing this."
Sarah Bookman, who investigated the political and cultural implications of public toilets in her thesis for Auckland University, believes there are inherent design issues with the hygiene of these facilities that "can no longer be neglected".
"To have washing your hands designed around using a paper towel to turn the tap off. There's going to have to be other solutions in the future … Using taps and flushes with lots of sensors will become more important after Covid-19."
Bookman, who has worked on public bathroom design at prominent New Zealand architecture firm Studio Pacific said, ensuring significant and visible hygiene improvements to bathrooms can even lead to a stronger post-pandemic economic recovery.
As social restrictions are gradually lifted, Bookman said, people will be hesitant to treat public spaces as they previously did, and that in the case of public toilets, this will affect how much time they spend away from their home.
"If you're not able to use public bathrooms, that limits your time outside ... In order to get people back into public life, you want people to go out again. It's good for the economics of the city."
She said, those who will rely on public bathrooms as lockdowns are eased are mostly those on lower incomes, essential workers and homeless people.
"In cities with poor public bathroom facilities, people tend to go to a restaurant, especially in countries like the US, to use their bathroom. That's just not a viable option, especially in a pandemic."
Bookman acknowledges new measures will be costly but says they will save money in the long term.
"Normally you can't put a cost on safety, but now after the economic hit of coronavirus, we probably can, because if you don't have good hygiene in public bathrooms, and minimise the spread of the disease, you can get a pandemic."
"We've almost got this little opportunity from the pandemic where people are going to listen and going to change. What we do now to fix public bathrooms, people will actually follow."