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Use of disinfectant tunnels not recommended by MoHFW: Centre tells Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was hearing a PIL filed by a final year law student seeking complete ban on sanitization tunnels being used across the country to disinfect entrants of a public place/ premises. Centre informed the Supreme Court in its affidavit that it is not recommended for the purpose of sanitization for COVID-19.

The Petition also states that the so called disinfectant tunnels are not only "ineffective" in preventing spread of the virus but also have dangerous after effects, as they expose human beings to ultra violet rays, and the same amounts to "non-consensual medical experimentation". It also violates the fundamental right of Right to Life under article 21 of the Constitution of India

The Centre has said in its affidavit that the guidelines and SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) had enlisted various measures and protocols to be adopted for cleaning and sanitization. Disinfectant fogging as a method to sanitize was not recommended in these guidelines for routine patient care areas or operation theatres as these disinfectants can be hazardous.

Even in the guidelines, for common public spaces, which were issued in March to deal with environmental cleaning and decontamination of common spaces the affidavit says,

"fogging/fumigating of the external environment was never emphasized/advised."

Guidelines and a SOP issued in May and June, by the Ministry to prevent spread of the contagion in workplace settings and office settings also stressed on the need for washing hands and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers.

The Centre says that in none of these guidelines or SOPs has the Ministry ever encouraged or advised the use of fogging disinfectant or use of sanitization or disinfectant tunnels or chambers.

In fact, in April a meeting was convened by the MoHFW's technical advisory body i.e. the "Joint Monitoring Group" chaired by Directorate General Of Health And Services and was well represented by eminent experts of WHO, National Centre Of Disease Control, Indian Council Of Medical Research, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, Experts From Central Government Hospitals, Air Force Medical Services, Drug Controller General etc. recommended as under:

Spraying of disinfectants on humans is not recommended under any circumstances. Spraying any chemical disinfectant is physically and psychologically harmful.
Further, chemicals are harmful to human skin and the mucus the membrane of the respiratory tract, if inhaled.
External spraying of any chemical disinfectant does not kill a virus that has already entered the body of a person or of a person who has earlier been exposed to the virus.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah while hearing the petition asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that why the ban was not already enforced if the usage of disinfectant tunnel was harmful.

In reply to the question raised by the Court Mehta said that the necessary orders could be issued shortly and sought a week's time to place the relevant details on record.





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