All over the Philippines, Local Government Units (LGUs) are disinfecting roads, markets, and other public places with sodium hypochlorite or household bleach mixed with water to, as what many think, kill the coronavirus that causes this so-called COVID-19 disease. This happened not only in National Capital Region (NCR), Manila and Quezon City, but also in other parts of the country such as Davao City, Mindanao. In fact, this type of measure also has been applied in other parts of the world.
In Indonesia for example, taipeitimes.com reported, “A drone dispersed clouds of disinfectant in the sky above Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, on Tuesday (March 31), as response to the COVID-19 pandemic which is catching on around the world, despite warnings from health experts. Mass disinfections, often by workers in protective clothing resembling characters from the movie Ghostbusters, have become a common sight worldwide”.
However, On April 10, the Department of Health (DOH) Philippines announced that all efforts like this in the country should be put into halt as, according to the department, it causes the virus to be dispersed further, it will cause further health problems by irritating the skin and damaging the respiratory system, and will also damage the environment.
The irony is, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) promotes disinfection through providing guidelines that recommends “the cleaning and disinfection of rooms or areas occupied by those with suspected or with confirmed COVID-19. It is aimed at limiting the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in key environments”. It also stated on the same article that, “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings”.
It also went on to say that, “Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces”.
And lastly, it also added, “In areas where ill persons are being housed in isolation, follow Interim Guidance for Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection for U.S. Households with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019. This includes focusing on cleaning and disinfecting common areas where staff/others providing services may come into contact with ill persons but reducing cleaning and disinfection of bedrooms/bathrooms used by ill persons to as-needed”.
Meanwhile, Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases expert in Singapore who chairs the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by the WHO, was also quoted saying, “It’s a ridiculous image seen in many countries. I don’t believe it adds anything to the response and could be toxic on people. The virus does not survive for long in the environment and people do not generally touch the ground.”
In addition, Wiku Adisasmito, a public health professor at the University of Indonesia was also quoted stating, “It is not good for skin, mouth and eyes, it will cause irritation”. And also, Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth hospital, said, “mass disinfections are eye-catching and may boost morale but are not effective virus controls. It would have better effect using a water cannon to disperse people and make them go home”.