Switching on ACs while driving isn’t cool with COVID-19 around: Panel

Experts call for natural ventilation, regulating use of ACs in malls, offices and cars as it can circulate virus 

Published: 24th April 2020 06:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2020 03:50 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If the state government accepts the expert committee’s proposal, switching on AC while driving could soon be regulated. The panel made such a suggestion because AC in cars could aid in transmitting coronavirus among passengers.

“A suggestion of this kind was made by B Ekbal, chairman of the expert committee, during the state-level assessment meeting chaired by the Chief Minister on April 15,” said an officer of the health department. 

“It was then suggested that AC shops should not be allowed to function. Another proposal was to regulate the use if ACs inside cars and other vehicles. However, a clear cut decision has not yet been made.”  

As per a national document on infection prevention and control programmes, aerosols containing infectious agents can be dispersed over long distances by air-ventilation or air-conditioning systems.

An infectious disease expert said that like hand washing, wearing facemasks and practising social distancing, switching-off the air conditioning system in cars and commercial buildings should become a norm in the fight against COVID-19.

“There are not enough studies to prove the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) inside air-ventilation or air-conditioning systems. But there is enough evidence to prove that it could transmit within such systems when it was used in restaurants, malls, passenger aircraft and others. It is not yet known how prevalent COVID-19 is in the air. But if there is an infected person in the car, the air conditioning system could be circulating the virus around the cabin,” the expert said.

Same is the case with poorly ventilated buildings, particularly when they are poorly maintained or when the number of air exchanges per hour in a room is insufficient, he added.

Experts have suggested that well-designed natural ventilation systems can often be more effective than air conditioning in promoting effective infection control.

In a study carried out in Singapore, it was suggested that as viruses thrive better in cool, dry climates, the use of air conditioning systems will have to be avoided.

It was highlighted that enclosed spaces, where it is less humid and cooler, could help spread respiratory diseases.

Taking note of the risks involved with using ACs, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had requested people not to use air conditioners if possible.

Viral life cycle

Aerosols containing infectious agents can be dispersed over long distances by air-ventilation or air-conditioning systems.

Maharashtra govt had requested people not to use ACs if possible.

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