Because the main modes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus are respiration and contact, WHO recommends frequent washing of hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds. This article investigates how the level of concern about COVID-19 affects the likelihood of washing hands frequently in sub-Saharan Africa. The study makes use of a unique survey dataset from 12 sub-Saharan African countries collected in April 2020 (first round) and May 2020 (second round) and employs an extended ordered probit model with an endogenous covariate. The results show that the level of concern about the spread of the virus increases the likelihood of washing hands with soap under running water for a minimum of 20 seconds at least five times a day. The increase in the probability of handwashing due to concern about COVID-19 ranges from 1.4% for Nigeria to 7.2% for South Africa. The results also show heterogeneous effects across gender- and age-groups. Though this suggests an increase in handwashing, the sustainability of the handwashing protocol could be threatened by the severe water scarcity that exists in the region. To sustain frequent handwashing, sub-Saharan Africa needs an effective strategy for water management and supply.
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