One of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic is keeping our hands clean. Doctors recommend that people should wash their hands properly for 20 seconds. However, this process is also riddled with problems like water wastage and touching the same surface that you had earlier touched with your dirty hands to close the tap. This is problematic for doctors, nurses, cleaners and ambulance drivers managing patients afflicted with COVID-19.
Responding to these concerns, Tamchos Gurmet (35), an innovator from Domkhar village in Leh district has developed what he calls an ‘Infection Free Tap’. This device doesn’t require people to use their hands at all except for washing them.
“Made of steel, this device has two foot presses at the bottom. If you press the foot press on the right, you’ll get liquid soap and if you press on the left you’ll get running water. Doctors tell us to wash our hands for 20 seconds, but during this time a lot of water ends up getting wasted. In the system I have built, the water flow is both efficient and minimal. The water will flow only if you apply pressure on the footpress. Once you release the pressure on the foot press, the water stops flowing,” says Tamchos, speaking to The Better India.
Users can control the amount of water that flows down instead of bothering about closing a running tap with soapy hands. As compared to a conventional tap, this device saves 80% of the water that would otherwise flow in these 20 seconds, claims Tamchos. It’s a manually operated device and the water flows from an insulated tank inside it.
“There is a tank inside the device which remains insulated for cold places like ours. You know, in the cold morning, people wash their hands very casually and quickly because the water is very cold. But here we have an insulated tank from where we can get warm water so that people can wash their hands properly,” he adds.
People can hook up the machine to a regular water connection that they have at home or they can fill water in an insulated water tank built into a system that can carry 20 litres.
“All the material was sourced from a local hardware store, mechanical spare parts shop and other available scrap material. The foot press you see is made of parts used in a Tata truck, a vehicle which we used to call ‘Pagal Gadi’ (‘Crazy Vehicle’) when we were children. I went to a Steel Fabrication shop to make the body, which took a couple of days. The soap flowing out is your standard refill liquid soap. It took me about five days to build this device working everyday from 7.30 in the morning to 7.30 pm,” says Tamchos.
For the time being, this machine is available for staff at the Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital in Leh. He has received orders from civilians, hotels, the airport authority, defence establishments and the government hospital in Kargil which has patients quarantined. This device weighs 70kg, although the ones he’ll be making in the future would weigh less.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time to build this system because of the urgent need for such a device. Otherwise, I would have made it more sophisticated with regular water connection and a temperature control system in place. On a personal level, what drove this innovation was the fear that we are battling a virus no one can see. Moreover, everything had shut down very quickly in Leh once the epidemic broke out, so I couldn’t even gather all the necessary material to build a more sophisticated machine,” he says.
However, it was his concern for doctors and other staff at the hospital that really drove his innovation. Empathetic to their pain and suffering, he wanted to help in any capacity.
“They help us in our time of need. You see, when a soldier goes to the war, he knows there is a tangible enemy out there and they have to protect themselves. But I find this current situation even worse. Here, we have an invisible enemy. Here, a doctor trying to save somebody can be caught in the crossfire and get attacked by the same virus from which they are trying to save their patient. This is what inspired me to make this device. And while I was making it, I received the news of a doctor getting infected,” argues Tamchos.
Nonetheless, he doesn’t consider this innovation to be a big deal.
“Let me say that this is nothing extraordinary that I have made. It was just an attempt to save lives. I am just an individual and cannot do much alone. But if many individuals come together we can achieve something. People are distributing masks, sanitizers and other critical equipment like ventilators. You can see how big an impact these people are making. So, we have to all come together. Even a mask can save a life and from infections. Similarly, my device can hopefully help those on the frontlines in some capacity,” he adds.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)