Experts say disinfecting surfaces will not stop Covid infections

Experts say disinfecting surfaces will not stop Covid infections

By Tracy Cabrera

MANILA — At most places around the country, cleaning crews constantly spray almost all areas and equipment with antimicrobial solutions.

In the Light Rail Transit trains, workers continually disinfect all surfaces, including seats, safety railing, windows and doors.

In malls, restaurants, supermarkets, groceries, drugstores, banks and offices, many spent lots of money on intensive surface cleaning to reopen after lockdown.

This is the trend and health safety measures being implemented all over the world at present to somehow contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Workers are soaping, wiping and fumigating surfaces with an urgent sense of purpose: to fight Covid-19.

But scientists increasingly say that there is little to no evidence that contaminated surfaces can spread the virus. In crowded indoor spaces—especially those with air-conditioning—they say that the virus that is exhaled by infected people and that lingering in the air is a much greater threat.

Hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds—or sanitizer in the absence of soap—is still encouraged to stop the virus’s spread.

But scrubbing surfaces does little to mitigate the virus threat indoors, experts say, and health officials are being urged to focus instead on improving ventilation and filtration of indoor air.

According to respiratory infection specialist Dr. Kevin Fennelly of the United States National Institute of Health (USNIH), it his opinion, a lot of time, energy and money is being wasted on surface disinfection and, more importantly, diverting attention and resources away from preventing airborne transmission.

Some experts suggest that Metro Manila, a crowded metropolis of 12.8 million people and a long history of infectious disease outbreaks, is a case study for the kind of operatic surface cleaning that gives ordinary people a false sense of security about the coronavirus.

And so is Cebu City, Davao and other highly urbanized centers in the archipelago.

One important aspect in the fight against Covid-19 is contact tracing and contact tracing czar Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong says there is a ‘strong correlation’ between an LGU’s contact tracing performance and the level of involvement of its mayor.

In an official statement, Magalong said there is an “urgent need” for each locality to have a contact tracing champion if they want to boost their surveillance efforts for coronavirus cases.

The mayor observed that local government units (LGUs) with higher contact tracing efficiency tend to be governed by mayors who are closely monitoring the surveillance efforts on the ground.

“There’s a strong correlation between local government performance in contact tracing and the level of involvement of the local chief executive. Nakita po namin ‘yan sa iba’t-ibang mga local government units (We saw that in various LGUs),” he pointed out.

If the mayor cannot fulfill this job given other equally pressing matters in the COVID-19 crisis, Magalong suggests tapping a city or municipal councilor, or even a department head, to become the contact tracing champion.

“There’s also an urgent need to develop contact tracing champions in each LGUs, especially (if the]) mayor is not so much involved. So we would rather look for councilors or probably head of departments to be the contact tracing champion,” he said.

Magalong added that when local officials do not prioritize contact tracing, the people tasked to look for the close contacts of COVID-19 cases do not get the proper incentives to do their job well.

“Sometimes the contact tracer is also the swabber. He or she will use his or her own car and pay for the gasoline as well. If that’s the case, even I would not be motivated to go to work,” he said.

As of August, the Baguio local chief executive said that the Philippines has organized a total of 15,103 contact tracing teams with 149,043 contact tracers across LGUs.

Magalong, however, admitted this is not enough. In Metro Manila alone, the contact tracing ratio barely improved from 1:4 to 1:5 after the area was earlier reverted to the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks.

The Philippines has so far tallied 363,890 cases of Covid-19, with 6,780 deaths and 312,330 recoveries. (AI/MTVN)

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