Germans are conscientious about hand hygiene and wearing masks in daily life with COVID-19.
Study on Hygiene Awareness in Germany

Protection against infection in a purposeful way

Hygiene awareness and hand disinfection in everyday life with Corona

They will probably remain a part of our lives in the future. Despite declining infection figures and global vaccination campaigns – physical distancing and hygiene rules. They have been successful: the number of influenza cases in Germany was reduced by 99% and an even greater spread of the pandemic was avoided 1, 2. A survey by HARTMANN shows how purposefully people in Germany dealt with hygiene and protection against infection. It became clearer than ever: a mix of measures for holistic protection against infections is no longer just an issue for clinics, doctors' surgeries and nursing homes, but also in private life.

What exactly was asked, and when?

In four representative survey waves, 1,000 people in Germany were asked about their everyday hygiene behaviour, how the Corona pandemic affected this and how worried they were about infection. The individual survey waves took place between November 2019, before Corona, and January 2021, during the tightened lockdown.

Purposeful hygiene behaviour

People in Germany took hygiene very seriously even before Corona. With the pandemic, the respondents also extended their preventive measures: washing and disinfecting hands, wearing a mask, keeping your distance. The population got used to the new hygiene rules very quickly and integrated them into their daily lives. Above all, it became clear that individual habits alone do not provide sufficient protection against infection. Infection prevention works best when different measures are interlinked and coordinated.

In Germany, people often wash their hands – with or without Corona

In terms of concrete measures, it was noticeable that hand washing was already at a high level (approx. 90%) before Corona and this was maintained. More people also relied on hand disinfection (50% before the pandemic, last survey wave 74%).
Graph on hand washing and disinfection of respondents in Germany

In addition to hand hygiene, the most important infection prevention measures included, as is still the case today, the wearing of mouth-nose covering. In January 2021, 61% wore medical masks (surgical masks) and 55% FFP2 or FFP3 masks. By comparison, only 10% of respondents used FFP2/FFP3 masks in April 2020, and only 20% in October 2020. The often self-sewn community masks inevitably lost relevance, as these were hardly permitted any more.

Graphic on protective measures taken in everyday life with Corona

Keeping distance and avoiding contact - infection prevention is teamwork

Especially when it came to the topic of "distance", the Germans took it very seriously. Outside of their own four walls, many places that are heavily frequented and thus carry a higher risk of infection were actively avoided. These included public buildings and means of transport, but also health care facilities.
Graph on the disgust factors of the respondents during Corona
Generally, people tried to exclude risks and to contribute efficiently to a reduction of infections with appropriate measures. However, this could only succeed as a team. Success in infection prevention, in both private and clinical settings, comes from joint action and a mix of measures. This is the only way to prevent diseases such as COVID-19 or nosocomial infections.
Current developments show: the holistic use of preventive measures is having an effect, the Corona infection figures are falling and the flu epidemic was almost completely absent. Nevertheless, infectious diseases will continue to present us with major challenges. Adherence to distancing and hygiene rules could be a helpful tool against this in the future as well. After all, they are seen as an important building block for reducing the incidence of infections, which also contribute to relieving the burden on the health system.

Sources:

1Buda S, et. al. Influenza-Wochenbericht Saison 19/20 und Saison 20/21. https://influenza.rki.de/Wochenberichte/2019_2020/2020-28.pdf, https://influenza.rki.de/Wochenberichte/2020_2021/2021-20.pdf (last retrieved on 07.06.2021)
2Robert Koch-Institut. Erfassung der SARS-CoV-2-Testzahlen in Deutschland (Update vom 15.4.2020). Epid Bull 2020;16:10 https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/Infekt/EpidBull/Archiv/2020/Ausgaben/16_20.pdf?__blob=publicationFile#:~:text=In%20der%20vergleichenden%20Betrachtung%20der,k%C3%BCrzere%20Dauer%20der%20Grippewelle%20auff%C3%A4llig (last retrieved on 07.06.2021)

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