Over the past weeks, the Philippines breached the 100,000-mark of those infected with COVID-19, and COVID Referral Centers like the Philippine General Hospital has announced that it will halt acceptance of non-COVID-19 patients as it recognized the need to open more beds with the rising cases, including that of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant.
In light of this situation, the Department of Health (DOH) further emphasized the strengthening of efforts to combat the local transmission of the Delta variant in the Philippines through the implementation of stricter border control measures at the local level and augmenting the country’s healthcare capacity, it has repeatedly stressed that the best defense against any COVID-19 variant is still the correct and consistent adherence to the minimum public health standards and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.
However, as the country continues to slowly open the economy to jumpstart recovery, and as more and more people find themselves having been vaccinated against COVID-19, they will begin to venture outside their homes to resume their former activities that increase their risk of exposure and the possibility of infecting someone, especially after this third in a series of two-year-long lockdowns.
Many will find themselves in their offices, malls, and other indoor spaces where particles from an infected person can move throughout an entire room or indoor space and can even linger in the air after the infected person has left the room. This was stated in an article published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which further mentioned that the COVID-19 can remain airborne for hours in some cases, especially in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas.
Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality and control airborne contaminants. When not enough air circulates, high levels of moisture, odors, gases, dust, and other air pollutants, and even viruses and bacteria build-up.
The EPA article further stated that although improvements to ventilation and air cleaning cannot on their own eliminate the risk of airborne transmission, the EPA recommends increasing ventilation with outdoor air and air filtration as important components of a larger strategy aside from the adherence to safety protocols like the wearing of masks, physical distancing, especially in poorly ventilated areas.
Key points to consider for quality air are as follows:
- Operate a window air conditioner that has an outdoor air intake or vent, with the vent open.
- When using fans, to help reduce risks of airborne transmission, direct the airflow of the fan so that it does not blow directly from one person to another.
- Use a portable air cleaner or air purifier. When used properly, air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, in a home or confined space; and place the air cleaner in the room you spend the most time in or where vulnerable people spend the most time.
- Open more than one window or door, and practice cross ventilation, opening doors or windows at opposite sides of a home, and keeping internal doors open.
In a quote from renowned epidemiologist Professor Raina Macintyre, an Australian expert in infectious diseases, “People are still stuck in that mindset of hand sanitizer and washing your hands when the actual message we need to be getting out there is it’s the air you breathe.”