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China Fights Virus With Ultraviolet Light

BEIJING (AFP) — Ultraviolet light is being beamed through public buses and elevators in China as the country fights the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Companies are under pressure to meet strict prevention measures for the virus, which has killed more than 3,100 people in China. Shanghai public transport firm Yanggao has converted a regular cleaning room into a UV light disinfection chamber for buses, cutting a 40-minute process down to just five minutes.

Coronavirus in China“After the epidemic happened … we were actively searching for a more efficient disinfection method,” said Qin Jin, deputy general manager at Yanggao.

He said that normally the process required the full attention of two staff members, who sprayed disinfectant on surfaces in the bus before wiping them down.

“The problem with this was that it might not reach certain corners,” Qin said.

The group partnered with a technology supplier to set up an ultraviolet cleaning system, and now some of its buses are cleaned by UV rays.

Workers drive one bus at a time into the chamber, which has been equipped with 210 UV tubes, and leave the room before activating the system, bathing the vehicle in a blue-white hue.

Two cleaning rooms have been converted and each can disinfect up to 250 buses a day, Qin said.

With around 1,000 buses needing disinfection daily, the UV system has reduced the amount of overtime and manpower needed for regular public transport disinfection.

The World Health Organization has cautioned that UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin, as UV radiation can cause skin irritation, but Qin said the chambers are closed off and activated by workers outside.

Health experts say that UV light is not typically used to disinfect public areas, but can be effective if done correctly.

Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said UV disinfection is effective but needs to be used with care, as the light can cause skin cancer.

“UV disinfection is widely used in hospitals worldwide after patients have left a room,” he said. “This is used for antimicrobial resistant pathogens, tuberculosis and other infectious agents.”

While it is not usually used on public transport, “there is no good reason why (it) would not work,” he said.

Yanggao is not the only organization investing in UV disinfection.

China’s central bank said in February it was disinfecting and isolating used banknotes using UV lights to combat the coronavirus.

A market supervision bureau in southern Guangdong province proposed a “smart UV elevator disinfection system,” which it says eliminates the risk of missing corners or irritating passengers with remnants of cleaning fluids.

UV tubes are installed in elevators and activated when the system detects no one inside, sweeping the area with penetrating UV rays and automatically turning off when it’s done.

The plan is to eventually install the system in public spaces such as hospital elevators.

© Agence France-Presse

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