Scientists sceptical of mass disinfecting effectiveness

A man wearing a face mask raises his hands as he walks through a booth that sprays disinfectant on commuters before boarding taxis at Mabopane taxi rank in Pretoria.

A man wearing a face mask raises his hands as he walks through a booth that sprays disinfectant on commuters before boarding taxis at Mabopane taxi rank in Pretoria.

AFP/Phill Magakoe

JOHANNESBURG - Scientists have cast doubt on the effectiveness of mass disinfecting against the coronavirus pandemic.

Keen to show they are doing all they can to protect people, governments around the world have rolled out disinfectant tunnels, sprayed pavements with bleach and used drones to spray public spaces.

But scientists say that while disinfectants can kill the coronavirus on surfaces, the sprays tend to degrade quickly, so these efforts are far less important than personal hygiene and social distancing.

READ: Mbalula eyes Gautrain disinfecting booths for Metrorail

"Any individual who walks through a tunnel who is infectious, remains infectious on the other side of the tunnel," Kerrin Begg and Nandi Siegfried, of the University of Cape Town's college of public health medicine guidance team, said in a written response to questions.

They added that infected individuals will immediately begin to spread the virus again unless they follow guidance on hygiene and distancing.

Some commuters in Soweto, though, said it gave them peace of mind.

EXPLAINER: How long can coronavirus survive on surfaces?

"I'm happy as long as they are trying to sanitise it, it shows ... they are doing something," said Bright Shabani, a 34-year-old merchandiser.

Vuyelwa Toni Penxa, managing director of Real African Works Industries, which makes the booths, said the fog they use is plant-based and tests have shown it is 99.9 percent effective against bacteria and other pathogens, including a virus similar to the novel coronavirus.

The company is awaiting tests to prove its effectiveness on this strain, so while they can't yet be 100 percent certain, she was confident the tunnels could make a difference.

"We are hoping to reduce the number of people that are infected," she said, adding, however: "No one solution can be prescribed to combat COVID-19."

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Source
Reuters