Jackie Wilson Asheeke

I ‘get it’ that we have to wash our hands or have ‘sanitizers’ sprayed onto our hands before we enter every store or building. But, here is the thing. ‘Sanitizers’ is too general; it is not defined. We have some places spending the money to use actual alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The majority are cutting corners. They are using floor cleaners, bathroom disinfectants and industrial detergents mixed with an undefined amount of water and spraying our hands with it. I have the chapped, red and peeling hands to prove it.

A visit to the mall may mean entering six or more different places. Since I no longer go to the mall to get one thing as before, I save up all my needs for one visit and less exposure to crowds (masks or not). When you enter the mall, you get your hands sprayed. If you go to one store for bread and eggs, you get sprayed again. Another store for deodorants and hair grooming supplies – sprayed again. Another store to get bedroom slippers and warm socks – sprayed again. Another store to get some perfume – sprayed again. Another store to get some winter tights, sprayed again.

Another store I passed had a ‘two-for-one’ huge sale sign in the window and I wanted to check it out, so I was sprayed again. It gets worse when you go into a store just to check their prices on future purchases; you are sprayed again.

Finally, I went to one shop after my hands were cracked. I simply wanted to stand at the entrance and ask (long distance, we both had masks) if they had the item I was looking for. The store was empty, I would have been the only customer. There is no use enduring the stinging of floor cleaners masquerading as hand-sanitizers if the thing I wanted to buy wasn’t there. The woman working there, refused to answer me unless I had my hands sprayed! I had enough of the pain, so I declined to do business with that vendor.

I was only in the mall for a whirlwind 58 minutes in total. I try to move fast as I do not want to be exposed any longer than necessary. I don’t pick-up different things or touch items as I used to do when I shopped before COVID. I know what I need, I have a list and I get busy. No impulse buying is allowed.

By the time I went to my car, my hands were beet red. There were cracks were in my skin, my fingers could not be extended without strain, my skin had begun to peel, and my hands were wrinkled as if I had been doing dishes for 10 hours.

I have been sprayed many times before at malls and offices with no problems. I wonder if that particular day, one of the sprays caused a reaction. There were so many different sprays, I have no idea which one was the culprit.

I used to ask those doing the spraying what disinfectant they are using. They had no idea.

I carry a spray bottle of hand sanitizer in my bag. I have asked when entering stores if I could spray my own hands right in front of the assistants at the doors, and all have said no, they must do it.

I ‘get that’ – they cannot know what is in my bottle and cannot be responsible for liability should I be the one identified to have spread the virus. So, I let them spray away and try to be accepting at a time of crisis.

The hand sanitizing measures before entering stores and buildings is probably here to stay. We need the Ministry of Health to look into this. There should be a uniform definition of ‘hand sanitizer’. There must be acceptable products identified officially. The dilution percentages should be made available to each store or business or office. People should be told when they ask, what product they are being sprayed with. Let there be bottles of approved hand sanitizers that we can buy and visibly do our own hands before entering.

Now I bought hygiene gloves to wear when I go out. This way, the different so-called ‘hand sanitizers’ won’t damage my skin. The gloves can be washed repeatedly with no allergies involved (hopefully).

The Health Ministry should advise on this particular situation so that we can get it right.