Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel with the availability of various types of Covid-19 vaccines from multiple pharmaceutical companies, the new Coronavirus then shifts to “sport” mode and fast-tracks the production of its own strain of more virulent variants. Then, combine that with society’s lowering of its guard, and we’re now back to square one. Daily new cases are at all-time highs. Modified lockdowns and curfews are once more in place. We’re either in or out of the “NCR-Plus bubble.” Our nation’s public officials, perhaps out of exasperation or fatigue, have simply called upon the general public to observe their own “personal ECQs” in their own homes or workplaces.
That call to enforce personal ECQs should also apply to another crucial space—that of your own vehicle. Since it has been medically established that the virus that causes Covid-19 can travel via aerosol, the single most important factor to prevent its spread—apart from masking or shielding up—is to maintain a safe distance of at least two meters (six feet). That’s easy to do when you’re outdoors or in a large indoor venue. Inside a car? Well, that’s another story, and one that requires other measures to ensure safety.
I asked my trusted sources in the medical and automotive fields how “personal ECQ” could be applied inside vehicles.
Dr. Michael Tee, MD, professor at the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines-Manila, enumerated: “Open windows if you’re sharing a ride with others. Ensure proper ventilation. Since it’s summer already, and the car is sufficiently exposed to direct sunlight, that’s enough to disinfect the car.”
“The virus doesn’t survive for long in hot and dry places,” he explained.
Dr. Joel Alejandro, MD, a medical officer in Makati, stressed that “personal bubbles are minding your environment and getting away from enclosed and crowded places.” Alejandro makes it a point to bring alcohol and gloves inside his car. He added that: “for public transportation, it’s important to lessen the volume of passengers to 50 percent.”
“When riding in a taxi, I open the windows and tell the driver to turn off the AC,” he said.
“When I’m alone inside my car, I don’t wear a mask. However, during gas stops or drive-throughs, it’s a must for me to wear my mask and shield,” he added.
Automotive enthusiast Alex P. Loinaz told this writer: “I bring a can of Lysol and do a quick half-second spray burst before locking up every now and then for the droplets to vaporize, especially when I park under the sun to optimize vapor expansion. I bring down the windows to clear out the vapors for a minute before driving out then leave the windows open for a minute to aerate the inside.”
Loinaz added: “I rarely use the aircon unless I’m in slow-moving traffic. I use a KN95 or N95 mask. Any other passenger must wear a blue hospital type face mask or N95. I bring with me disposable sealed plastic ware for my leftover small pieces of used soap which I use to wash my hands. They come in handy instead of throwing them away. I also bring a bunch of hand towels and picnic-type thick tissue instead of Kleenex and hand wipes which I also use to wipe my steering wheel every now and then. I also have a bottle of ethyl alcohol spray to supplement hand washing when no faucet is within reach.”
Niky Tamayo, Top Gear Philippines contributing editor, revealed: “Parking in the sun may leave the car hot, but it’s an effective way to sterilize it, since the inside of the car can get up to 30 degrees hotter than ambient!”
Tamayo also said it would be a good idea to open car windows when there’s more than one person inside the car. “On low fan, make sure cabin air that is stale doesn’t rise or is kicked up into your face, and vent new air in.”
Motoring journalist and businessman Leslie Sy said that he uses a UVC lamp (for 15 mins) in the passenger and cargo areas (when these spaces are used); alcohol sprays for hands, masks for all occupants. “I don’t advise face shields. They’re too warm and blurs vision,” Sy stressed.
For public vehicles such as buses, Sy offers a suggestion. “I’m not sure if it can be done, but maybe hypochlorous acid fogging inside buses might be applicable to help minimize virus transmission through air and surfaces. We have been doing this since we resumed operations last year during the C19 lockdown at our home and office.”
Sy said that hypochlorous acid is a “human-friendly” disinfectant.
“It’s basically an electrolyzed saltwater solution to form a very light acid. It is used in fogging archways, and in disinfecting large areas. The machine used is just a big ultrasonic humidifier,” Sy explained.