A video supposedly revealing a “back to school sanitization” process shows students lined up to be sprayed a disinfectant, in a measure that is apparently set to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the students.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Education Prof. George Magoha on October 6 announced the re-opening of schools in Kenya for final year students. Schools were ordered to re-open on October 12, and required to maintain measures such as social distancing, wearing of masks, hand washing or use of sanitizers and the fumigation of schools that were previously used as quarantine centers. Prof. Magoha did not recommend the spraying of students with disinfectants in his statement.
Prior to the re-opening of schools, the practice of spraying individuals with disinfectants had been adopted with the aim of containing the spread of COVID-19. Leaders such as Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko saw the installation of sanitization booths for public use. A man in Uasin Gishu County was also feted for innovating a spraying machine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), spraying individuals with disinfectants as a measure against the spread of COVID-19 is not recommended.
In WHO’s publication titled ‘Considerations for the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces in the context of COVID-19 in non-health care settings’, the practice of spraying individuals is said to have no impact in reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 through droplets or contact- the main mode of transmission of the virus.
“Even if someone who is infected with COVID-19 goes through a disinfection tunnel or chamber, as soon as they start speaking, coughing or sneezing they can still spread the virus,” a post on WHO’s website indicates.
Instead, spraying individuals with disinfectants, according to WHO, poses physical or psychological harm.
“Spraying individuals with chlorine and other toxic chemicals could result in eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm due to inhalation, and gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting” the WHO publication, that was issued on May 15 adds. This WHO report also debunks the practice of spraying outdoor spaces such as streets and marketplaces as a measure to kill the COVID-19 virus because disinfectants are inactivated by dirt, and even so, “chemical spraying is unlikely to adequately cover all surfaces for the duration of the required contact time needed to inactivate pathogens”. Spraying of streets can also be harmful to human health according to the report.
In a statement dated June 23, Dr Patrick Amoth, the Director-General for Kenya’s Ministry of Health, also recommended that the practice of spraying people with disinfectants should stop.
“The Ministry has witnessed some interventions being put in place by counties, which are not backed by ministerial and global guidelines such as spraying people with chemicals through booths, tunnels and cabinets. This practice is not recommended and therefore should stop,” Dr Amoth’s statement said.