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The COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the world, and India is no exception. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has been the worst yet and has made us realise that none of us are really safe if we do not take the right precautions. With Coronavirus cases finally on a decline, let’s not get complacent and take the situation lightly. So as we start to crawl out of bunkers and get back to normal life, whether that involves stepping out to stores, schools, offices or other public places, we are going to have to pursue strategies of risk mitigation for shared indoor spaces in the new world order, as the clear protocol for COVID-19 is ‘Don’t Share The Air’.
There are 3 clear strategies communicated by principal scientific advisers, namely, physical distancing, masks and ventilation. Further, clean healthy air has become the need of the hour for offices, homes, buildings, hospitals, malls and other indoor spaces. There is no foolproof mechanism to make indoor spaces Coronavirus-proof. However, we must be aware of the below points from COVID-19 risk mitigation perspective for shared indoor spaces, like offices, hospitals, stores, malls, hotels, classrooms, public transportation, etc.
It is a well known fact that the COVID-19 virus thrives in dry conditions. Some research studies have shown that the survival of viruses, including human coronaviruses, may be reduced when the relative humidity is in the 40–60% range. In residential settings, portable in-room humidifiers can be used for sensory comfort and to reduce excessively low relative humidity levels. In these instances,we can use a humidifier with a built-in humidistat and control the relative humidity level near 40-60%.
Research shows that elevated temperatures offer the potential for decontamination of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air or on surfaces. On the flip side, COVID-19 survives best at low temperatures in dry air. It is supposed that high temperature and humidity, together, have a combined effect on inactivation of coronaviruses while the opposite weather condition can support prolonged survival time of the virus on surfaces and facilitate the transmission and susceptibility of the viral agent. Therefore, both high indoor humidity level and high temperature (25-30 C) are equally important in COVID-19 risk mitigation.
There is evidence that the virus attaches itself to particulate matter in the air. "Particulate matter" are tiny grains of pollution that can be dangerous to human health because they can get deep into our lungs. Those particles, often far smaller than the width of a human hair, are produced by car tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and burning materials.Italian scientists have found the coronavirus on tiny particles of air pollution. This means the virus could be carried over longer distances, increasing the number of people infected. Therefore, we must make a conscious effort to monitor the PM levels indoors and use air purifiers to keep the levels as low as possible. Ideally <10ug/m3.
When indoors, ventilation mitigation strategies can help reduce viral particle concentration. The lower the concentration, the less likely viral particles can be inhaled into the lungs. Protective ventilation practices can reduce the airborne concentrations and reduce the overall viral dose to occupants. One way to keep tabs on ventilation is by monitoring CO2 levels indoors and keeping it as low as possible. In India, the outdoor CO2 level is approximately 410 parts per million. We recommend indoor CO2 level to be maintained under 800 parts per million by increasing fresh air intake.
While COVID-19 is highly contagious, we can only prevent it by staying vigilant and conscious of all the necessary measures. Government and health authorities can help provide us with necessary resources to treat the infection, but the responsibility of prevention lies solely in our hands.