Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Directorate General of Health Services [Emergency Medical Relief]

Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Guidelines on rational use of Personal Protective Equipment

1. About this guideline
This guideline is for health care workers and others working in points of entries (POEs), quarantine
centers, hospital, laboratory and primary health care / community settings. The guideline uses setting
approach to guide on the type of personal protective equipment to be used in different settings.
2. Introduction
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate
among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect
people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS.
The outbreak of Novel coronavirus disease (now named COVID-19) was initially noticed from a
seafood market in Wuhan city in Hubei Province of China in mid-December, 2019, has spread to
more than 185 countries/territories worldwide including India.
The causative agent for COVID-19, earlier termed provisionally as novel Coronavirus has been
officially named as SARS-CoV-2.
3. Mode of transmission
There is clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. It is thought to be
transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets that get generated when people cough, sneeze, or
exhale. SARS-CoV-2 also gets transmitted by touching, by direct touch and through contaminated
surfaces or objects and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. Healthcare
associated infection by SARS-CoV-2 virus has been documented among healthcare workers in many
countries.
The people most at risk of COVID-19 infection are those who are in close contact with a
suspect/confirmed COVID-19 patient or who care for such patients.
4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) are protective gears designed to safeguard the health of
workers by minimizing the exposure to a biological agent.
4.1 Components of PPE
Components of PPE are goggles, face-shield, mask, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons),
head cover and shoe cover. Each component and rationale for its use is given in the following
paragraphs:
4.1.1 Face shield and goggles
Contamination of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth is likely in a scenario of droplets
generated by cough, sneeze of an infected person or during aerosol generating procedures carried out
in a clinical setting. Inadvertently touching the eyes/nose/mouth with a contaminated hand is another
likely scenario. Hence protection of the mucous membranes of the eyes/nose/mouth by using face
shields/ goggles is an integral part of standard and contact precautions. The flexible frame of
goggles should provide good seal with the skin of the face, covering the eyes and the surrounding
areas and even accommodating for prescription glasses.
4.1.2 Masks
Respiratory viruses that includes Coronaviruses target mainly the upper and lower respiratory tracts.
Hence protecting the airway from the particulate matter generated by droplets / aerosols prevents
human infection. Contamination of mucous membranes of the mouth and nose by infective droplets
or through a contaminated hand also allows the virus to enter the host. Hence the droplet
precautions/airborne precautions using masks are crucial while dealing with a suspect >or confirmed
case of COVID-19/performing aerosol generating procedures.
Masks are of different types. The type of mask to be used is related to particular risk profile of the
category of personnel and his/her work. There are two types of masks which are recommended for
various categories of personnel working in hospital or community settings, depending upon the work
environment:
1. Triple layer medical mask
2. N-95 Respirator mask
4.1.2.1 Triple layer medical mask
A triple layer medical mask is a disposable mask, fluid-resistant, provide protection to the wearer
from droplets of infectious material emitted during coughing/sneezing/talking.
4.1.2.2. N-95 Respirator mask
An N-95 respirator mask is a respiratory protective device with high filtration efficiency to airborne
particles. To provide the requisite air seal to the wearer, such masks are designed to achieve a very
close facial fit.
Such mask should have high fluid resistance, good breathability (preferably with an expiratory
valve), clearly identifiable internal and external faces, duckbill/cup-shaped structured design that
does not collapse against the mouth.
If correctly worn, the filtration capacity of these masks exceeds those of triple layer medical masks.
Since these provide a much tighter air seal than triple layer medical masks, they are designed to
protect the wearer from inhaling airborne particles.
4.1.3 Gloves
When a person touches an object/surface contaminated by COVID-19 infected person, and then
touches his own eyes, nose, or mouth, he may get exposed to the virus. Although this is not thought
to be a mode of transmission, care should be exercised while handling objects/surface
potentially contaminated by suspect/confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Nitrile gloves are preferred over latex gloves because they resist chemicals, including certain
disinfectants such as chlorine. There is a high rate of allergies to latex and contact allergic dermatitis
among health workers. However, if nitrile gloves are not available, latex gloves can be used. Non-
powdered gloves are preferred to powdered gloves.
4.1.4 Coverall/Gowns
Coverall/gowns are designed to protect torso of healthcare providers from exposure to virus.
Although coveralls typically provide 360-degree protection because they are designed to cover the
whole body, including back and lower legs and sometimes head and feet as well, the design of
medical/isolation gowns do not provide continuous whole-body protection (e.g., possible openings in
the back, coverage to the mid-calf only).
By using appropriate protective clothing, it is possible to create a barrier to eliminate or reduce
contact and droplet exposure, both known to transmit COVID-19, thus protecting healthcare
workers working in close proximity (within 1 meter) of suspect/confirmed COVID-19 cases or their
secretions.
Coveralls and gowns are deemed equally acceptable as there is a lack of comparative evidence to
show whether one is more effective than the other in reducing transmission to health workers.
Gowns are considerably easier to put on and for removal. An apron can also be worn over the gown
for the entire time the health worker is in the treatment area. Coveralls/gowns have stringent
standards that extend from preventing exposure to biologically contaminated solid particles to
protecting from chemical hazards.
4.1.5 Shoe covers
Shoe covers should be made up of impermeable fabric to be used over shoes to facilitate personal
protection and decontamination.
4.1.6. Head covers
Coveralls usually cover the head. Those using gowns, should use a head cover that covers the head
and neck while providing clinical care for patients. Hair and hair extensions should fit inside it