Fewer plastic barriers reduce chance of COVID-19 transmission

Published by rudy Date posted on December 27, 2021

by Rainier Allan Ronda – The Philippine Star, 27 Dec 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-funded study conducted by the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) found that having fewer barriers in public transport vehicles reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that the ADMU study, led by Dr. Joel Maquiling, showed that the number of barriers and their arrangement greatly affected the airflow within public transport vehicles, and hence, also had consequences on COVID-19 transmission prevention.

By barriers, the study referred to seats with backrests, acetate or plastic barriers, and even face shields.

Public transport vehicles covered by the study, which was conducted from May to October, covered public utility buses, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) configurations, using 3D simulations to look at airflow.

The study found that the current LRT and MRT configurations, where seats are arranged at the sides and passengers facing each other, are found to cause better airflow within the vehicle compared to the current commuter bus setup.

This arrangement also reduces the number of seats and limits the maximum passenger capacity.

Aside from barriers, additional inlets or outlets in the vehicles configured in an alternating open-closed-open manner would enhance the airflow and flush out any agents of infectious disease, like SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.

The study team also stressed the importance of wearing face masks that perfectly fit the face, instead of using barriers of any form that may also trap viral loads of SARS-CoV-2.

Dela Peña said that the results of the ADMU study could be utilized by the concerned government agencies and policymakers in designing and implementing policies and guidelines, and guide transportation engineers in reconfiguring vehicles.

The DOST chief said that the data generated from the study may also be utilized by medical or health-related businesses in designing, fabricating and implementing appropriate personal protective equipment for commuters.

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