COVID-19 disinfection tunnels are of no use, say experts

Even if an infected person walks through the tunnel, the tunnel does nothing to prevent the spread of the virus from the person, says Dr. G.S. Vijayakrishnan of KGMOA.  

Public health experts and doctors maintain that disinfection tunnels could be of little use in containing the spread of COVID-19 and funds directed towards them could be put to better use instead.

“Disinfection tunnels have no scientific validity,” said Dr. B. Ekbal, public health expert part of the committee constituted to advise the government on COVID-19. “Nothing is likely to happen if sodium hypochlorite solution or hydrogen peroxide is sprayed on a person. Maybe droplets on clothes might be destroyed. But it gives a false sense of security and does nothing to break the method of transmission,” he said.

“There is an established system. These technologies should not be introduced unnecessarily without permission from the Health Department,” Dr. Ekbal said. Tunnels across the State were recently disconnected, he said.

“Even if an infected person walks through the tunnel, the tunnel does nothing to prevent the spread of the virus from the person,” said Dr. G.S. Vijayakrishnan, general secretary, Kerala Government Medical Officers Association. “It does not in any way alter the two scenarios in which the virus can spread — if an infected person coughs or sneezes releasing droplets, and if a person touches surfaces where these droplets have landed,” he said. An alcohol-based sanitiser would have the same impact on an individual’s hands but without the financial burden of setting up a disinfecting tunnel, he said. Kiosks for testing could be set up with the funds instead and could be an advantage in the current situation, he added.

‘Disinfection gateway’

Meanwhile, the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, has developed a ‘disinfection gateway’ that uses 0.5% hydrogen peroxide in mist form. “The gateway reduces the burden of microbes a person carries when they enter a private space from a public area,” said Dr. Asha Kishore, director of the institute. “We don’t claim that it can be kept in public spaces, parks or for patients to walk through. But it can be used at entrances of offices when employees walk in from a public area into the office,” she said. Dr. Kishore added that the gateway was not a substitute for hand hygiene, social distancing or mask use, and that the level of exposure to hydrogen peroxide was within safe limits. The institute had submitted safety documents to the Chief Minister’s Office and confirmed that the gateway was not like the tunnels where sodium hypochlorite was sprayed in concentrations unsafe for human use, she said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said Sree Chitra’s disinfection gateway should not be equated with the unscientific tunnels set up in several places in the State. “Sree Chitra’s gateway is scientific and usable,” he said.

HMT, Kalamassery unit, is one of the companies tasked with producing the gateways. “Production has been delayed during the lockdown since we are awaiting material from Kolkata and Chennai. But the company has already received several enquiries for the product, including from a few public sector undertakings and offices in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai,” said HMT General Technical Manager S. Balamurugesan.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:13:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/covid-19-disinfection-tunnels-are-of-no-use-say-experts/article31350721.ece

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