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As we mark the one-year anniversary of the COVID-induced lockdown on Metro Manila, cases have unfortunately begun to increase again. The World Health Organization, among others, has pointed out that being in an enclosed space with others who may be exhaling the Covid-19 virus substantially increases your chance of getting infected. This has led to enclosed spaces where crowds gather—cinemas, churches, and stadiums, to be shut down. There is one common space where there are few people, but a potentially high risk of infection—the car interior.
The car interior is a small, enclosed space which, you may be sharing with another person, potentially infectious, for many minutes at a time. It’s worth looking at ways to keep the car environment safer while driving:

1. Ventilation is key
As much as possible, keep windows open when sharing a vehicle with a person who is not from your household. This creates at atmosphere closer to an outdoor environment. An outdoor environment has the least risk for Covid transmission since virus particles do not accumulate to a high concentration.

2. Open the front right and rear left window
The preferred (ie, most distant) car seating when there is one driver and one passenger, is for the passenger to sit in the rear right seat. If they follow an open-window configuration, this usually means that the driver and passenger will each open their window. However, this leads to an airflow from the driver to the passenger, which may become a path for virus particles to travel. With driver and passenger at the rear right, it’s best to open the Front Right and Rear Left window, This creates an effect similar to an air curtain, where a barrier forms and air flow from driver to passenger and vice versa is minimized.
(Study posted in Science Advances: “Airflows inside passenger cars and implications for airborne disease transmission”, advances.sciencemag.org)

3. Wear masks when inside the vehicle
Yes, wearing masks for hours at a time is tiresome and you might be tempted to go for that “Airgasm” moment once you enter your car. But keep that mask on if you have a passenger who’s not part of your household. (And because it’s required by the law, too.) Wear it securely around your nose and chin, and avoid the temptation to lower or loosen it.

4. Avoid talking,laughing and singing
This is not to the time to engage in Carpool Karaoke. Talking, laughing and singing significantly increases exhaled particles, so avoid doing anything of the sort.

5. Keep the ventilation in “fresh” mode
This may be a tough one if you’re going through a polluted area, but taking in as much fresh air into the car is a must. You can counteract pollution and also reduce virus contamination by equipping your car with an ionizer or something similar.

So before you say, “You’re like COVID—you take my breath away”, it’s best to follow safety protocols, and help drive out covid and other viruses from your car interior.

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