Centre States Disinfectant Tunnels Are Harmful

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by Gusimran Singh Narula before the Supreme Court sought directions to ban the usage and installation of the sanitisation tunnels. The sanitisation tunnels spray disinfectants on people who pass through it. The installing of these tunnels came into consideration after the outbreak of the pandemic. The object of affixing these tunnels is to sanitise people before entering into the building or premises. As we sanitise items by sparing disinfectant on them, these tunnels sanitise people by spraying disinfectant on them to prevent coronavirus.

 Sanitisation tunnels are harmful as disinfectant contains toxic chemicals which affect the people. Thus, PIL filed before the Supreme Court is against the Central Government for the ban of sanitisation tunnels. The Central Government on Monday filed an affidavit stating that using the disinfectant tunnels is not recommended, and spraying of disinfectant causes clinical and psychological harm to humans.

In the affidavit of the Central Government, it states that the guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Ministry) recommend against the use of disinfectant tunnels and spraying on people for preventing coronavirus. The Ministry issued a list of various protocols and measures for sanitisation during covid times. There is no mention of the disinfectant fogging method in these measures issued by the Ministry as it can be hazardous. The spraying of the disinfectant does not affect coronavirus, whether it is indoors or outdoors.

Spraying of disinfectant affects the skin and respiratory tract as it contains harmful chemicals. In indoor spaces, disinfectant is not effective in removing organic material, and it may miss surfaces shielded by fabrics, objects or which have intricate designs. A cloth soaked in disinfectant is better to clean indoors.

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Thus, there is no recommendation of spraying it indoors for prevention of coronavirus. Similarly, the use of the spray outdoors is negligible. The moment the disinfectant touches the dirt or derbies, it gets deactivated. The spray cannot reach every corner of the street or sidewalks. The roads and sidewalks are not the reservoirs of infection according to the Ministry.

The Central Government said that disinfectant spraying or fogging is not recommended for routine patient care areas even in the ‘National Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control in Healthcare Facilities’. It provides that spraying has no role in operation theatre as it is hazardous to persons and also harm sensitive equipment. It diminishes the infected person’s ability to spread coronavirus through droplets or contact, and there is no recommendation to spray it on individuals. 

The Central Government, in its affidavit, states that public health and hospitals are state subject and it is for the respective States or Union Territories to implement the guidelines of the Ministry. Its role is limited to providing necessary guidance and financial support. The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta reiterated to the Supreme Court that the Ministry did not issue any guideline for using ultraviolet lights to disinfect humans for covid management. The Supreme Court put a question before the Solicitor General as to why there is no ban on the use of the disinfectant tunnels when it is harmful. It issued the direction to ban it. The Central Government is yet to follow this direction and prohibit the use of the disinfectant tunnels.

For any clarifications/feedback on the topic, please contact the writer at mayashree.acharya@cleartax.in

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