Covid-19: Week after its introduction, Railways ditches disinfection tunnels
The enclosures have nozzles that spray mist made up of a mixture of appropriate disinfectants (including sodium hypochlorite solution) diluted in water for 3-5 seconds from head to toe supposedly killing viruses.Updated: Apr 13, 2020 17:08 IST
Less than a week after the Central Railways (CR) set up a disinfection chamber at a loco shed in Bhusaval and also directed its staff not to install such (disinfection) tunnels at other railway junctions it has been decided to abandon the idea.
The enclosures have nozzles that spray mist made up of a mixture of appropriate disinfectants (including sodium hypochlorite solution) diluted in water for 3-5 seconds from head to toe supposedly killing viruses. The mist is sprayed in quick intervals that ensures a person does not get wet. The technique is also used to clean large vehicles or products, and these chambers can also be set up at the back of large vans.
But health experts were sceptical of the idea.
“We were informed that this disinfection process might be harmful for people passing through. The tunnel was immediately shut down in Bhusaval, and an internal advisory has been issued that no such tunnels will be developed again,” said Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer, CR that set up the tunnel within two days at a cost of Rs. 10,000.
On April 11, the director of public health, Chennai, banned the use of such techniques in Tamil Nadu. “Disinfection tunnels will create a false sense of security and people may be diverted from washing their hands. In addition, spraying of alcohol, chlorine, lysol on human beings is not only harmful but also ineffective,” read a circular by Chennai’s public health services.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) insecticide department said they will not be installing disinfection tunnels in any of the containment zones in Mumbai. “These tunnels or chambers are not advisable. Spraying disinfectants needs a minimum contact time of 10 minutes and it is not good for the clothes or skin. This is the reason BMC has not gone for any such tunnels within its jurisdiction,” said Rajan Naringrekar, insecticide officer, BMC.
Poddar Hospital in Worli, has set up a disinfection chamber. “Everything is being managed by the BMC. This was the first disinfection chamber located at any hospital in the city using 2% sodium hypochlorite solution. We do not know how effective this is,” said Narsu Patil, manager, Poddar Hospital. Similar chambers have also been set up at the Vashi Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and Vashi police station.
The Mumbai police have five disinfection vans at each of the city’s administrative regions. “Based on the concentration of disinfectants and health impact, we will soon take a call on whether to discontinue this,” said Pranay Ashok, deputy commissioner of police (operations).
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government is planning to install more such tunnels across market places, government buildings and railways stations with the help of the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai.
“Tunnels that have sprung up at various locations have been designed without any scientific basis. Techniques used previously for pesticide spraying purposes are being modified to spray humans during the outbreak. This will not work,” said Professor Aniruddha Pandit, ICT vice chancellor. “There are World Health Organisation guidelines that mandate permissible exposure and intake of such tunnels, and it is perfectly acceptable.”
ICT plans to inaugurate its prototype tunnel on its campus at Matunga on Tuesday. “Based on its success, we will consider placing the technology at other locations. We have a capacity to make one tunnel every three to four days,” said Pandit.