‘The boundaries between hygiene and superstition often blur.’

All this handwashing can get tiresome, but Martyn Kelly thinks it needn’t be a chore

‘This small rite brings us closer to people around the world for whom some kind of ablution is a necessary preliminary to worship.’ | Photo: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash.

We have, over the past month, become a nation of frantic hand washers. Rightly so, from a purely scientific perspective. Handwashing does not eliminate the risk of infection but it does reduce risks of transmission, thereby slowing the spread of disease. Looking at the COVID-19 pandemic from a western Christian or secular perspective, that rational explanation is all we need, although the government’s suggestion that we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ as we lather-up adds an element of ritual to the process.

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