DOH issues guidelines on enclosed spaces during pandemic

By: Jovic Yee - Philippine Daily Inquirer | October 13,2020 - 09:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) issued new guidelines on Monday, October 12, 2020, on good ventilation and proper air circulation in enclosed spaces, amid the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that with the updated guidelines, the public can put in place administrative and engineering controls that would minimize the risk of one being infected should experts definitively determine that the new coronavirus can be transmitted through the air.

“While there is yet conclusive evidence of airborne transmission, [the] DOH is already recommending that we make sure that there is proper ventilation in enclosed spaces, like workplaces, restrooms and vehicles,” Vergeire said.

Under Department Memorandum No. 2020-0429, signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday last week, activities are recommended to be held in open-air spaces. If this cannot be done, “opening windows and doors should be put into practice to facilitate the flow of outdoor air into space.”

Vergeire said the public should avoid sitting directly in the air flow coming from electric fans and air conditioners, especially in hot weather.

Exhaust fans, car vents

“Electric fans and air-conditioning units may facilitate transmission of the virus if it directs air from infected individuals to others in the room,” the memorandum read.

For public restrooms, Vergeire said exhaust fans should be installed and kept open continuously as much as possible.

Cars, particularly those used for public transport, should “avoid using the recirculated air option.”

“Utilize the car’s vents to bring in fresh outside air and/or lower the vehicle windows,” the DOH said.

‘Special circumstances’

Vergeire said that the guidelines may be adjusted depending on the needs of the area, and in consultation with heating and ventilation experts.

The DOH guidelines came a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States said airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, “can occur under special circumstances.”

These include enclosed spaces where an infected person has been or where susceptible people have gone after the infected person has left and areas with inadequate ventilation that allow a buildup of suspended small respiratory droplets and particles.

Still, the CDC said that based on available data, the new coronavirus is mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets since if it were primarily airborne, “experts would expect to have observed considerably more rapid global spread of infection in early 2020 and higher percentages of prior infection measured by serosurveys.”

Virus case update

On Monday, the DOH logged an additional 3,564 new cases, bringing the nationwide total to 342,816. Of the newly infected, 3,197 got sick between Sept. 29 and Oct. 12, while 304 fell ill between Sept. 1 and 28.

Metro Manila still has the most number of new cases, 1,344, followed by Cavite (215), Laguna (212), Rizal (211), and Iloilo (164).

There are now a total of 293,152 COVID-19 survivors with the recovery of 150 more patients. The death toll, however, rose to 6,332 as 11 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.

Of the newly reported deaths, eight died this month, two in August and one in July. Four of the fatalities were from Davao, three from Calabarzon, two from Ilocos, and one each from Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

The recoveries and deaths left the country with 43,332 active cases, of which 83.9 percent are mild, 10.8 percent asymptomatic, 1.7 percent severe and 3.6 percent critical.

The DOH said the country’s 10.03 percent positivity rate still “needs improvement” as it was still double the less than 5 percent benchmark of the World Health Organization.

As of Monday noon, a total of 3,914,643 patients had been tested for COVID-19 by the 145 accredited laboratories.

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