Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who chairs the Minister of Health’s COVID-19 advisory committee, has said coronavirus disinfection tunnels pose a danger to human health and should not be permitted.
His comments came during a presentation on COVID-19 trends in the country as of 28 May.
MyBroadband previously reported on the development of these tunnels, which are intended to be placed at the entrances of areas and buildings where many people may congregate – such as shopping malls, grocery stores, offices, and factories.
These container-like boxes are fitted with sensors that detect when a person moves through them, which then activate a sanitising spray.
The solution is said to kill the virus and disinfect people and objects passing through.
One such tunnel reported on sprays a non-alcoholic solution with sodium sulphate as the active ingredient to disinfect people and items which they are carrying.
According to the company which manufactured this tunnel, the European Food Safety Authority regards it to be safe for human use.
Multiple other tunnel manufacturers told MyBroadband that the various sanitising solutions they employ are also safe for use on humans.
However, Professor Karim has warned none of these sanitising agents have been properly tested and that the practice is harmful and holds no benefit in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Tunnels should not be permitted
Karim explained human disinfection processes do not form part of the government’s Coronavirus Prevention Toolbox and said these structures should simply not be permitted.
“One of the issues which is causing great consternation is a tool that’s being used which is not in the toolbox, and that is the process of human disinfection, and they are particularly being used in tunnels,” Karim stated.
He claimed the substances used in the disinfection tunnels could be harmful to humans.
“The spraying of humans with chemicals and putting humans through fumigation tunnels is potentially dangerous. It can damage the eyes, it can cause skin rashes and it can affect breathing,” Karim said.
The professor stated there was little or no evidence for the safety of the chemicals that are used and the side-effects thereof remain largely unknown.
On top of this, Karim said it’s not just that these are potentially harmful, it’s that there is no discernible benefit for using the chemicals in coronavirus prevention.
The coronavirus, when it does cause infection does not enter through skin, but rather through the mouth, nose, and eyes, Karim explained.
He encouraged South Africans to rather sanitise or wash their hands, as these are parts of the body which may be particularly susceptible to spreading the virus.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of not going through one of these fumigation tunnels,” Karim concluded on the issue.
Below are images of the coronavirus disinfection tunnels being sold in South Africa.