You may know by now that some of the best ways to prevent being infected by the COVID-19 virus is to wash your hands with soap regularly, avoid touching your face and clean frequently touched surfaces and objects with disinfecting sprays or wipes. However, on top of that, experts say that it is also important to turn off your air-conditioner and open your windows for fresh air to reduce risk of infection.
The reason is that while many unknowns remain about the virus, earlier studies have shown that viruses thrive better in cool, dry climates.
That would make tropical Singapore, with its hot and tropical weather, less conducive for the virus to thrive.
This “good news” for Singapore was delivered last Monday (Feb 10) by the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, at a press conference.
“The likelihood of viral persistence outdoors is lower,” he said, as he noted the prevalent use of air-conditioning in Singapore.
Prof Tan was one of eight infectious disease experts in Singapore present at the press conference to brief the media on what is being done to fight the virus, or 2019-nCoV, on both the science and health fronts.
He said plenty of research had been done into how long viruses persist on surfaces following the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003.
“Most of the studies indicate they don’t persist well in hot, humid environments,” he added. “Hot and humid meaning over 30 deg C, and with humidity levels of over 80 per cent.”
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The virus that caused Sars is in the same family as the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan and has spread globally.
The virus is spreading in Singapore, with 77 cases so far.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, programme leader of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School, said: “Air-conditioning is something that can’t be helped in Singapore, especially during the hot months.
“But enclosed spaces, where it is less humid and cooler, could help to spread respiratory diseases.”
Experts suggest that another way to reduce the spread of diseases is to keep windows and doors open to ventilate the rooms.
The World Health Organisation, in a document outlining how to prevent the coronavirus from infecting people, said suspected cases should be kept in well-ventilated rooms.
Get Some Vitamin D
Professor Wang Linfa, director for the programme in emerging infectious diseases at the Duke-NUS Medical School, said ultra-violet rays and heat from the sun could kill the virus.
“If you can stay under the sun for a while, it would be good,” he added. “Vitamin D can also boost the immune system.”
Disinfecting surfaces could also prevent the virus from infecting people.
Public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT had said last month (Jan 30) that they are stepping up cleaning efforts for their premises and vehicles.
The Health Ministry has said that for the general public, the risk of infection from transient contact, such as on public transport and in public places, is assessed to be low.
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Text: Audrey Tan/ The Straits Times / February 2020
Images: Pixabay, Unsplash