The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that spraying disinfectant on the streets, does not eliminate the new coronavirus and even poses a health risk. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Spraying disinfectants on streets can be harmful says WHO

“Spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is not recommended to kill the Covid-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris.”

DURBAN – As the Covid-19 pandemic has grown, you probably have seen photos and videos of workers in protective gear hosing down public places including taxi ranks with disinfectant spray.

In a document on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces as part of the response to the virus, published over the weekend, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that spraying disinfectant on the streets, as practised in some countries, does not eliminate the new coronavirus and even poses a health risk.

“Spraying or fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets or marketplaces, is not recommended to kill the Covid-19 virus or other pathogens because disinfectant is inactivated by dirt and debris. This could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact,” said the document.” explains the WHO.

The document also stresses that spraying individuals with disinfectants is “not recommended under any circumstances”.Spraying chlorine or other toxic chemicals on people can cause eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm and gastrointestinal effects, it adds.

The organisation is also warning against the systematic spraying and fumigating of disinfectants on to surfaces in indoor spaces, citing a study that has shown it to be ineffective outside direct spraying areas.

“If disinfectants are to be applied, this should be done with a cloth or wipe that has been soaked in disinfectant,” it says.

Research is still ongoing into how long the coronavirus can live on various surfaces. So far, two studies (first study and second study) have been published on this topic. 

However, no precise information is currently available for the period during which the viruses remain infectious on the various surfaces. Studies have shown that the virus can stay on several types of surfaces for several days. However, these maximum durations are only theoretical because they are recorded under laboratory conditions and should be “interpreted with caution” in the real-world environment.

“Even in the absence of organic matter, chemical spraying is unlikely to adequately cover all surfaces for the duration of the required contact time needed to inactivate pathogens,” added the organisation.

 

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