'Prioritize open air, install exhaust fans' to arrest spread of COVID-19, says DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 06:30 PM

Commuters line up to ride the MRT-3 in Quezon City on September 14, 2020 as it starts to accommodate more passengers, up to 204 from 153 per train, due to the newly implemented 0.75 physical distancing measurement between passengers. The IATF recently approved DOTR's proposal to gradually decrease the physical distancing measure between passengers in public transport in the coming weeks to increase rider capacity. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Public establishments and public transport must have proper ventilation and more exhaust fans to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Department of Health said Monday, as it released a memo on guidelines for ventilation. 

This, following inconclusive claims that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is airborne. 

“Habang wala pang conclusive evidence ng airborne transmission nirerekomenda na po ng DOH na tayo ay maniguro para sigurado na may sapat na ventilation ang mga enclosed spaces katulad sa ating mga workplaces, mga comfort rooms at mga sasakyan,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing on Monday.

(While there is still no conclusive evidence on airborne transmission, the DOH is recommending that we make sure that we have enough ventilation in enclosed spaces such as workplaces, comfort rooms and vehicles.)

Vergeire noted that it has already been proven that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be spread through droplets and contact transmission. While the World Health Organization earlier said airborne transmission is possible in medical settings where there are machines that can aerosolize droplets, health institutions have yet to categorically say that COVID-19 is airborne.

“Ang Department Memorandum 2020-0429 ay inilabas upang makapagbigay sa administrative and engineering controls na maaaring magamit sa enclosed indoor spaces upang ma-improve ang ventilation at mabawasan ang posibleng transmission ng virus,” Vergeire said.

(Department Memorandum 2020-0429 was issued to give administrative and engineering guidelines that can be used in enclosed indoor spaces to improve ventilation and reduce possible transmission of the virus.)

The memorandum, signed on October 8 by Secretary Francisco Duque III, cited several scenarios and the suggested course of action.

Vergeire said this is meant to add to the non-pharmaceutical interventions against the virus. Until now, there is still no approved cure or vaccine against COVID-19.

Vergeire said the measures include prioritizing open air spaces for activities and for individuals not to be situated “directly in the flow of air coming from fans and air conditioners,” especially when there are other people around.

Media previously reported a study showing how an infected person was probably able to infect other customers in a restaurant, specifically those in tables in front of the same air conditioning unit.

Another recent study also showed how passengers seating far from an infected person on the bus were also infected, possibly because of the poor ventilation in the vehicle.

Vergeire said among their recommendations is to install exhaust fans in public or comunical restrooms and to keep these fans on as much as possible.

She said those driving vehicles used for passenger transport should also avoid the recirculated air option of their vehicle.

The memo also recommended the opening of windows regularly and for people to flush toilets with the lids closed. 

Vergeire said people, especially those handling hospitals, factories and laboratories, should consult experts on ventilation and air conditioning.