Indonesia Expat

Hygiene Theatre: Is Disinfecti­on the Key?


Our daily activities used to comprise of getting ready in the morning for work, heading to the office using various transporta­tion modes, sitting for hours and hours in an office or a meeting, then travelling back home or heading out for some entertainm­ent. Nowadays, we do everything indoors, at home.

The occasional trips to our favourite restaurant­s, cafes, cinemas, and shopping centres still exist in our lives, but they depend on the constant evaluation and regulation­s put in place by the government. We’re now in an age where almost everything - payments, menus, shopping, etc. – is now contactles­s and accessible online. Moreover, disinfecta­nts are sprayed on all surface areas and hand sanitisers are always in our bags while as well as being provided in public areas when washbasins aren’t around.

We feel a sense of security and relief from taking precaution­s and following the health protocols because we’re taking actions to minimise our exposure from others and most importantl­y, COVID-19. What if you were told this is all an illusion?

The lowest risk of transmitti­ng COVID-19 is through fomites, which is the transmissi­on that occurs due to touching objects or surfaces contaminat­ed with the virus by an infected person. The World Health Organisati­on ( WHO) wrote that the “Three Cs”; crowded places, close- contact settings - especially where people have conversati­ons very near each other - and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilatio­n are the settings where the COVID-19 virus spreads most easily, especially when two or three of these criteria overlap.

However, cleaning efforts are often focussed on disinfecti­ng the surface, meaning its effects are merely temporary. Excessive disinfecta­nt usage leaves behind residue, causing harmful side effects to the health, such as triggering irritation, causing odour, and interferin­g with breathing.

Few people know with any certainty whether they’re positive or negative for COVID-19 on a daily basis – unless they have an at-home test, but that in itself isn’t 100 percent reliable. When a surface or room is contaminat­ed by an infected person after the disinfecti­on process is complete, the risk of transmissi­on returns and the effect of the disinfecta­nt is no longer valid.

Quoted from The Washington Post, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2021 said that contact with a contaminat­ed surface has less than a one in 10,000 chance of causing an infection — a smidgen higher than a person’s lifetime chance of being struck by lightning.”

Now, imagine going to a new dinner spot where you see the tables and chairs are disinfecte­d before you’re seated comfortabl­y and place your order. As you’re getting ready to eat, alcoholbas­ed cleaning fluids for cutlery are often distribute­d by the waiter. Instead of cleaning, however, the chemical residue left on the cutlery enters your body and becomes dangerous to your health. Eventually, you’ll remove your mask to eat and chit- chat the night away. This becomes dangerous; people are careless and the risk of transmissi­on through droplets and aerosols are highly possible.

This illusion, as noted earlier, is hygiene theatre. The Atlantic explained that hygienic measures actually don’t have the effect of preventing the transmissi­on of COVID-19. In other words, hygiene theatre offers little prevention against the coronaviru­s except to simply make everyone less anxious by creating an illusion of a sense of security that can instead cause harm or even make one careless.

UBC Clinical Psychologi­st Steven Taylor concurred that hygiene theatre still has value to create calmness. “While erring on the side of caution isn’t a bad thing, there are drawbacks if you take it to the extreme,” reported the Canadian news portal City News 1130. “Going overboard with the cleaning, that’s disruptive and expensive. Those resources could be spent on better things.”

Since science declares otherwise, how can we take the right precaution­s?

Don’t stop using disinfecta­nts altogether. Use them correctly to periodical­ly clean surfaces that are more at risks such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, or light switches. While on a personal level, adhere to the mandatory health protocols, namely wearing masks, keeping a distance, and washing hands.

Take it up another notch by maintainin­g good and clean air quality from viruses and pollution. The use of indoor air purifiers, whether at home, in the office, or in public areas, is the most adequate form of anticipati­ng virus transmissi­on through aerosol transmissi­on – remember WHO’s Three Cs?

The CDC recommends the use of air purifiers for closed rooms with capacity per the volume of the room, namely by matching the value of clean air produced (CADR) from AHAM. Combined with wearing a mask, turning on an air purifier in a closed room can reduce the risk of transmissi­on by up to 90 percent.

Director of PT Higienis Indonesia; distributo­r of air purificati­on systems, Blueair and Stadler Form, Justi Salusiana explained that any situation in which people are in close proximity to one another for long periods increases the risk of transmissi­on.

“More and more studies point to airborne transmissi­on, either via droplets or aerosols, as the main channel of transmissi­on. Indoor locations, where there is poor ventilatio­n, are riskier than outdoors. Activities where more particles are expelled from the mouth, such as singing or breathing heavily during exercise, also increase the risk of transmissi­on,” she continued.

The CDC and many other studies have estimated that about 50 percent of people living with someone who has COVID-19 will be infected — usually in less than five days, if no interventi­on, for example, selfisolat­ion is taken.

Justi went on to emphasise that we should not neglect that air pollution, especially in big cities like Jakarta, is a serious problem affecting our health and wellbeing. “While the focus is mostly on virus filtration during the pandemic, the benefits of using an air purifier, therefore, go beyond,” she said.

Make sure you are using an air purifier with honest and reliable informatio­n. “Logically, we have to reduce the virus concentrat­ion in closed rooms or any indoor settings. Through ventilatio­n, fresh air enters to ‘dilute’ the concentrat­ion level, or to reduce it by filtering the air with a quality air purifier that is equipped with efficient filter as well as able to produce high CADR,” concluded Justi.

Aside from helping to reduce transmissi­on potential, taking these measures also protect ourselves and our families. We may be unable to control air circulatio­n in public areas, but starting from home is better than nothing.

 ??  ?? Keep viral load indoors at bay with a quality air purifier, like Blueair HealthProt­ect, that produces high CADR.
Keep viral load indoors at bay with a quality air purifier, like Blueair HealthProt­ect, that produces high CADR.

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