The government should have accepted that Covid-19 was airborne long ago

This article was written by ZERO COVID THAILAND

Shopping malls have been reopened, dining-in has been allowed, and more measures are going to be eased, as Thais have recently been introduced to a new set of buzzwords: “Universal Prevention.”

But will that be enough to protect us from the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Ministry of Public Health and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha himself have emphasised the Universal Prevention measures, highlighting social distancing of one to two meters, handwashing, and keeping surfaces disinfected.

But the PM and the relevant agencies have not made clear enough a point he merely touched on: COVID is airborne.

“We have to be aware that everyone we meet is potentially someone who has COVID. And it has been medically proven that COVID can be transmitted via airborne transmission when people are close to each other. There’s always a risk of infection in being close to other people without protection. Therefore, I am asking everyone to strictly adopt the Universal Prevention policies, especially during the present high-risk period,” the post on his Facebook page said on 18 August. 

In fact, the government must make sure that the people are fully aware that COVID is not only airborne, but is primarily airborne, and mostly spreads through inhaling very small airborne particles directly into our lungs. This is important to understand because it drastically changes our understanding of how to protect ourselves, which is very different from what was previously communicated.

The evidence for airborne Covid has been building since the beginning of the pandemic, despite resistance from the medical establishment. But recent research from NUS in Singapore published this month has confirmed that not only is Covid airborne, but that more than 85 percent of the total virus amount emitted by an infected person is spread in the form of fine aerosols carried on their out-breath. These aerosols, which can linger in the air for long periods and be inhaled by others, are responsible for the majority of Covid infections, rather than either heavier respiratory droplets (that fall to the ground quickly) or contact with contaminated surfaces (as the government has previously stated, and around which misunderstandings their prevention policies are still chiefly designed).

Innovation consultant Tanasak Pheunghua said in a recent “COVID Is Airborne” online seminar held by Zero Covid Thailand that a person may get someone’s saliva on their face about 180 times a year, but with airborne transmission, the risk comes from each of the 1,200 times per hour that a person inhales.

“In very poorly-ventilated indoor places, these virus-laden aerosols, which are emitted through breathing, talking, and singing can stay in the air for days,” said Mr. Pheunghua. “Therefore, it is important that people keep in mind that these “virosols” can be around them whenever they are with someone else, or even when they are somewhere indoors that someone else has been recently, and they must protect themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Asian Institute of Technology environmental engineering management expert Assistant Professor Ekbordin Winijkul said it is good to keep social distancing, washing hands, and masks on. But with plenty of scientific evidence that shows COVID is mostly spread through airborne transmission, people must also be educated to develop working ventilation strategies in all places (wherever they can), and they must understand that the most important thing is to wear N95/KN95 masks, or to wear a surgical mask that completely covers the nose and mouth with a well-fitted fabric mask on top to provide a face seal. He also insisted that alternative effective masks must be distributed to the people for free or sold at low prices.

“During the outbreak of PM 2.5, people stockpiled N95, as they cared about long-term lung diseases. However, airborne COVID is very dangerous, and can get into our lungs directly, affecting our health in both the short and long terms, so we should be aware. In order to stop this pandemic, everyone must care more about wearing the right masks – the ones that can filter fine aerosols effectively.” he added.

Zero COVID Thailand
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