The rapid spread of coronavirus is increasingly affecting our everyday lives. One of the most important steps we can all take to prevent infection is to regularly wash our hands. Governments, schools and global health organizations have invested a lot of effort in finding ways to communicate the importance of thorough hand-washing. Alongside the often dry, serious, government-funded public service announcements (PSAs), many unofficial videos and comedy sketches have been created that have proved as effective, if not more, in getting the personal hygiene message across. Some have, for want of a better phrase, achieved viral status.
Perhaps the most successful of all has come from Vietnam, with an animated video called “Ghen Co Vy,” which translates to “Jealous Coronavirus,” receiving over 13 million views. YouTuber Nikki Châu Ngọc Trân has translated the video into English and posted a subtitled version on her channel.
The Chinese state media also got in on the act, producing “Believe Love Will Triumph,” a song that attempts to provide inspiration and reassurance that the crisis will be overcome. Translated lyrics include: “For you, I fight with my life even in the face of a rainfall of bullets. Through the door of life and death, I promise not to leave.”
While translations of these songs have helped them spread globally, the message of hand-washing is essentially a non-verbal one, and some of the more popular videos take an approach of minimizing the use of words, relying instead on their acting skills to convey their message. Nobody has done this more successfully than Iranian comedian Danial Kheirikhah, who produced a silent movie that sets hand-washing to a classical music soundtrack, as reported by the BBC’s Hossein Sharif.
Creating a dance routine for a PSA might not be the most obvious way to get your message across, but a group of nurses in Ecuador have done just that. When the artist Mister Cumbia produced the song “La Cumbia Del Coronavirus,” the nurses added their own take in a YouTube video that has attracted hundreds of thousands of views.
As if dancing wasn’t enough to get the public’s attention, three nurses from Oaxaca in Mexico have gone a step further and produced a video where they sing a song appropriately called “Die, bacteria, die!” while dancing to demonstrate the ideal hand-washing technique.
While 21st-century technology is behind these messages, the language being used to convey good hand-washing etiquette isn’t always so current. The British band The Fossilheads created an illustrated guide that uses the words of none other than William Shakespeare—or to be precise, Lady Macbeth, someone who certainly knew how to clean her hands well, even if she was getting rid of blood rather than an invisible foe. On the contrary, you can go to Wash Your Lyrics to make your favorite song into a demonstrative infographic to show you how to wash your hands while singing for 20 seconds, the recommended length of time for a thorough cleansing.
And, just in case the message isn’t getting through via online or traditional media channels, some have taken to more unorthodox, high-visibility methods to remind people of the importance of hand-washing: a pilot in Sydney, Australia, wrote the words “Wash Hands” using vapor trails from his light aircraft.
There has traditionally been a willingness across cultures to use humor to help get through crisis situations, and the current coronavirus epidemic is no different. People around the world are united by their concern for their own well-being and that of their family and friends around them. These creative messages might be serving as useful reminders, but more than that, they emphasize that there’s far more that unites us across cultures than divides us.