As per latest evidence, the Coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
Clean healthy air has become the need of the hour for offices, homes, buildings, hospitals, malls and other indoor spaces. There are essentially only three forms of transmission of Coronavirus, namely- air to person, person to person and surface to person. Person to person transmission can be prevented through adequate social distancing and surface to person transmission can be minimised with proper sanitisation and hand-washing. Air to person transmission on the other hand, is more difficult to tackle as according to data, maximum transmission is happening through the air.
We know that there is no foolproof mechanism to make indoor spaces Coronavirus-proof. However, it is clear from the above statements that proper ventilation, filtration and usage of ultraviolet lights are a few strategies that schools, nursing homes, offices and other indoor spaces should consider to help mitigate risk.
1. Ventilation (creating air exchanges)
It is crucial to have a proper ventilation system in place to prevent any aerosol or virus from getting transferred from an infected person to a healthy person. With effective and efficient ventilation in place, droplets from an infected person, if any, will be pushed out due to air exchange. Further, ventilating for longer and opting for ventilation with higher airflow volumes help reduce the risk of catching illnesses.
A few of us may have heard of something called the Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). It is a name for a condition that is thought to be caused by being in a building or other types of enclosed spaces with poor indoor air quality and lack of proper ventilation. The symptoms can affect skin, respiratory and neurological systems in addition to the added risk of catching viruses such as the coronavirus.
Additionally, with the onset of the monsoon, our immune systems are bound to weaken due to the drastic fluctuation of temperature. Ventilation is a must for every indoor space during this season.
Schools, nursing homes, homes and offices should add powerful new air filters with a high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating to filter out tiny particles. Since the average size of a COVID-19 particle is 0.125 microns, an ideal MERV rating is 13-14 to filter down to 0.1 micron. The higher the MERV rating, the more effective the filter is.
Owners of homes, buildings or malls must install the largest MERV number filter their systems can reliably handle without dropping the volume of air that runs through them. In given circumstances, even AC filters need to be reliable enough to filter out viruses, bacteria and other pollutants to provide maximum protection and sterilize the air in a particular room.
3. UV Germicidal Irradiation (recommended)
Ultraviolet lights are useful in killing airborne viruses on surfaces as well as on filter surfaces. They are most suited in medical situations- in disinfection of personal protective equipment, surfaces and floors as well as in residential homes.
It is important for each one of us to adapt the above practices to make indoor spaces safe and virus and bacteria-free. The Coronavirus is surely the main issue at hand; however we must be prepared for possible pandemics and illnesses in the future because as they say, prevention is better than cure!