The truth about disinfectant tunnels

The truth about disinfectant tunnels

Tunnel vision - disinfectant tunnels continue to be erected in transport hubs, schools, and residential estates, despite growing warnings - from very high places - that they are ineffective and unsafe.

Woman with mask using hand sanitizer preventing contagion
Woman with mask using hand sanitizer preventing contagion / iStock

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“Human spraying is harmful with almost no benefit,” says Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.

The World Health Authority has issued an advisory saying the spraying of people with disinfectants in booths or chambers is "not recommended under any circumstances".

"This practice could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact,” the WHO said.

“Even if someone who is infected with Covid-19 goes through a disinfection tunnel or chamber, as soon as they start speaking, coughing or sneezing they can still spread the virus.”

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said: “The CDC does not recommend the use of sanitizing tunnels. There is no evidence that they are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Chemicals used in sanitizing tunnels could cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation or damage.”

A very concerned KZN father emailed me this week to ask: "Please can you advise me on my child’s and my rights as a parent when it comes to sanitizing tunnels. My child’s school is adamant that the kids have to go through the disinfecting tunnels to gain access to the school. And they are being forced to keep their eyes through the tunnel.”

Pretoria-based microbiologist Prof Lucia Anelich calls such spraying “sanitising beyond reason”.

"There are concerns about the type of disinfectants used, their concentration, the contact time and the impact they could have on those who suffer from allergies and asthma," she says.

She said she was particularly concerned for those people, such as commuters, who would be forced to endure being sprayed with disinfectant twice a day.

“Apart from possible impact on the very sensitive mucous membranes of our eyes and nose, it will kill the good bacteria we all have on our skin, which helps prevent us from getting sick.”

Wouter Conradie, MD, Africa Operations for NSF Africa - a global public health organisation - told me he’d investigated the chemical used in one such tunnel erected at a residential estate in Somerset West, for visitors and domestic workers.

“It turned out to be chlorine dioxide, which is effective in killing the coronavirus, but only on hard surfaces,” he said.

“The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) warns that one should avoid it coming into contact with skin, eyes and clothes.”

He advised concerned consumers to ask for disinfectant tunnel manufacturers or the establishments which have erected them for the MSDS for the disinfectant used. “In the Somerset West case, I was told that the product is registered by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the USA. 

"I took the reference on the letter and looked up the actual registration data on the EPA website and that’s how I discovered the product being used contained chlorine dioxide, which is intended only for hard surfaces and will only be effective if left on the surface for several minutes to dry.

"It would most certainly not work on fabric.  It then goes on stating that it should not be allowed to come in contact with the skin and eyes or clothes.

"The residential estate immediately responded by discontinuing the use of the tunnel and informed the suppier, who responded by suggesting an organic biocide, which is registered for use in agriculture and only tested on three bacteira (E. coli, Salmonella species and Staphylococcus aureus).

“It was not tested on a virus, and certainly not on humans or on clothes."

As a global public health organisation, NSF “strongly advises” against the use of fumigation tunnels, Conradie said.

"There is absolutely no proof that fumigation tunnels have any positive effect in combatting Covid-19, but they are known to cause human health issues,” he said.

If you’re barely driving your car anymore, your insurance premium should moving - down - and not by a little

Naked car insurance policyholders have been boasting on social media since April on social media about their up to 90% premium savings during lockdown, so it was inevitable that the drive less, pay less car insurance model would spread.

This week, King Price Insurance launched its pay-as-you-drive fully comprehensive car insurance product called, 'Chilli'.

“We don’t believe that many South Africans will be going back to their ‘normal’ commute any time soon, and as people are driving less every month, we don’t think it makes sense that they’re paying the same for their car insurance every month,” said King Price CEO Gideon Galloway.

“But we don’t think that simply discounting premiums is a sustainable solution…”

Chilli monthly premiums start at R299 - if you drive less than 100km a month and your car has a retail value of not more than R500,000 - covering accidental damage, theft and hi-jacking, as well as third party liability.

“Approved telematics tracking devices (at an extra cost of R49 a month), feed chilli clients’ mileage straight into our systems,” Galloway said, quickly adding that there’s no “big brother” element.

“We just want to know how many kilometres you’re driving,” he said. “It’s not about monitoring the way you drive."

Those who don’t like the idea of a telematic tracking device can take a photo of their odometer and upload it on the King Price app.

Naked co-founder Ernest North told me that despite car sales being close to zero during lockdown, Naked Insurance sales have been at record levels.

“In both April and May we had our highest-ever number of new monthly users signing up,” he said.

But with so many South Africans driving far less, being forced to work from home for the forseeable future, many are questioning why their premiums haven’t been dropped by an amount that matches their radically reduced driving time.

As they should.

So if you haven’t claimed in the past year, and the pandemic has seen you dramatically reducing the amount of time you spend behind the wheel - since lockdown and for the forseeable future - you’d do well to speak to your car insurer about ensuring that your premium reflects that. If not, it’s a very competitive market - shop around for the best deal, and remember to look beyond the quoted premium to excesses and exclusions.

READ: Why can churches re-open but not restaurants?

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