WITH THE Centre stating that “spraying of disinfectant on humans is not recommended” as it is “physically and psychologically harmful”, the Supreme Court on Monday asked why it had not taken action against the use of ‘disinfection tunnels’.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah that the necessary orders will be issued soon.
The bench was hearing a plea which sought a ban on the “usage, installation, production, advertisement of disinfection tunnels involving spraying or fumigation of chemical disinfectants for… disinfecting human beings”.
Responding to the court’s notice, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in an affidavit that it had taken cognizance of news reports of people being sprayed with chemicals or exposed to such chemicals via walk-in tunnels and had convened a meeting of its technical advisory body on April 8.
The committee said that “spraying of disinfectants on humans is not recommended under any circumstances” and “is physically and psychologically harmful.” Saying that “chemicals are harmful to human skin and the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract if inhaled”, the committee also said that “external spraying of any chemical disinfectant does not kill a virus that has already entered the body of a person who has earlier been exposed to the virus”.
The ministry issued an advisory on April 18, highlighting the committee’s report.
According to the ministry’s affidavit, another meeting was held on June 9, under the chairmanship of the Directorate General of Health Services. This meeting reiterated that spraying disinfectant via tunnels, chambers, cabinets was “not recommended” as it would not diminish an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact.
The government also pointed out that the guidelines issued by the National Centre for Disease Control in January stated that disinfectant fogging is not recommended for routine patient care areas. It said that fumigation and fogging have no role in the operation theatre “because fumigation with formalin is hazardous to persons and can also harm sensitive equipment”.
The ministry said that in its March 29 guidelines on disinfection of public areas which reported Covid-19 cases, “fogging/ fumigating of the external environment was never emphasised/ advised.”
The ministry said it had “nowhere issued any advisory/ guidelines/ SOP for usage, installation, production, advertisement of disinfectant tunnels involving spraying or fumigation of chemical/ organic disinfectants for the purpose of disinfecting human beings in the workplace/ office/ public places/ external environments”.