1921
Volume 103, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645

Abstract

Abstract.

In countries without adequate access to improved sanitation, government-imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic can impact toilet usage. In India, where millions have recently transitioned to using a toilet, pandemic-related barriers to use might increase open defecation practices. We assessed changes in reported defecation practices in peri-urban communities in Tamil Nadu. Field assistants conducted phone surveys in 26 communities in two districts from May 20, 2020 to May 25, 2020. They asked respondents about their access to a toilet, whether they or a family member left their house to defecate in the past week, and whether specific practices had changed since the lockdown. Among 2,044 respondents, 60% had access to a private toilet, 11% to a public or community toilet, whereas 29% lacked access to any toilet facility. In our study, 92% of the respondents did not change their defecation behaviors in the 2 months following the pandemic-related lockdown. About a third (27%) reported that they or a family member left their house daily to defecate amid lockdown measures. A majority of those with private toilets (91%) or with public toilets (69%) continued using them. Respondents with private toilet access were more likely to report an increased frequency of handwashing with soap (prevalence ratio [PR]: 1.78, 95% CI: 1.04–3.05) since the lockdown. The lack of private toilets contributes to the need to leave the house amid a lockdown. Maintaining shared toilets require disinfection protocols and behavioral precautions to limit the risk of fomite transmission. Robust urban COVID-19 control strategies should include enhanced sanitation facility management and safe usage messaging.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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  • Received : 09 Jul 2020
  • Accepted : 18 Sep 2020
  • Published online : 29 Sep 2020
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