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Covid-19: Government bans sanitising booths

Sanitising booths near Likoni Ferry at Kilindini Harbour.
Sanitising booths near Likoni Ferry at Kilindini Harbour. Health ministry does not approve use of the booths.

Sanitising booth was for quickly disinfecting people in places with high flow of people such as supermarkets and hospitals. This power led Kenya Bureau of Standards’ to give rules on how make and run them. Now, Kebs has stopped approving the booths. Health ministry says it does not recommend the booths.

The government ordered removal of sanitising booths from public and private places. Two months late, they are still in use in some places.

In June, Health ministry said spraying people with disinfectant (in a tunnel, cabinet or chamber) could be physically and psychologically harmful. “And would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplet or contact,” says a guidance by the ministry, dated 9 June 2020.

The ministry said spraying individuals with chlorine and other toxic chemicals could result in eye and skin irritation, breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting.

Guideline by the ministry agrees with the World Health Organization. WHO says disinfecting individuals in spraying in tunnel or chambers is unsafe. “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,” says the UN health agency.

What next?

Health ministry has ordered owners of public and private places to immediately remove all booths, tunnels and cabinets installed and intended for disinfecting people. It has also stopped any further use.

Instead, the ministry tells people to follow hand hygiene, keep distance, obey cough rules, avoid touching face and use masks.

What is Kenya Bureau of Standards doing?

Kebs has stopped giving quality certificates for sanitising booths. A senior Kebs official said that they have put “on hold” certification of the booths.

Kebs must until Health ministry allows their use.

How was sanitising booth allowed?

Kebs had approved specification or standards for sanitisation booth. This standard, known as KPAS 2920:2020, gives minimum rules on making and using locally made booths. In addition, booth were to help other protective tools during current Covid-19 or any other emergence.

Because of long queues in public places, booths were to cut time people use sanitising. So, sanitising booths were to speed up the flow of people by exposing them to chemical mists to cover maximum body surface.

About Kaburu Mugambi

Kaburu Mugambi is a veteran of business reporting having worked with two national newspapers in Kenya. He is a graduate of economics from Kenyatta University. He started his journalism career in 2000 with The People Daily as a business reporter before becoming a business sub-editor. He joined Daily Nation in 2004 as a business writer. He holds a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and an MBA in marketing from the same university. In 2016, he founded Water Tower, a media firm focused on water, energy and climate. Its content cuts across water, energy and climate with emphasis on adaptation and sustainability.

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