Representational Image: Sanitisation chamber outside Supreme Court
Representational Image: Sanitisation chamber outside Supreme Court
Litigation News

[COVID-19] Use of disinfectant tunnels not recommended under MoHFW guidelines: Centre tells Supreme Court

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court in its affidavit that the Joint Monitoring Group had recommended against the spraying of people with disinfectant as it may have physical and psychological adverse effects.

Shruti Mahajan

The Central government in its affidavit has informed the Supreme Court that the guidelines and SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has recommended against the use of disinfectant tunnels and sprays for people as a measure against COVID-19.

Spraying of disinfectants on humans can have a harmful physical and psychological effect. As such, it is not recommended for the purpose of sanitization for COVID-19, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court in its affidavit.

The Centre has said that the guidelines and SOPs issued by the Ministry 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.

As regards common public spaces, guidelines were issued in March which dealt with environmental cleaning and decontamination of common spaces. Even in these guidelines, the affidavit says, "fogging/fumigating of the external environment was never emphasized/advised."

In May and June, another set of guidelines and a SOP was issued by the Ministry to prevent spread of the contagion in workplace settings and office settings, which 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.

It was, in fact, in April that after taking into account various media reports of people being sprayed with disinfectants that a meeting was convened by the MoHFW's technical advisory body i.e. the "Joint Monitoring Group".

This Body, which was well represented, advised and recommended against such use of disinfectants on people. The Committee recommended:

  • Praying 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 sprayting 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.

These findings and recommendations were reiterated by this Body in June after another expert committee meeting where the use of disinfectant sprays, the use of tunnels and chambers and its efficacy in killing the virus was considered.

Such spraying was also stated to be ineffective in covering all the surfaces that may need cleaning. Moreover, for open spaces, dirt renders the disinfectant inactive. Such disinfectant is even less effective on porous surfaces like sidewalks and roads, it was found.

In addition to this, the affidavit also states that the use of Ultra Violet lights for disinfecting people was never recommended by the Ministry for COVID-19 management.

Health being a State subject, the Centre's role is limited to providing guidance and financial support and the guidelines and SOPs issued will have to be implemented by the State, the affidavit seeks to clarify.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah was hearing a PIL filed which questioned the use of disinfectant tunnels and such when the Court was told by Solicitor General for India Tushar Mehta that use of these methods is not recommended and is indeed harmful.

When the Bench questioned as to why the Centre has not taken any action if the use is harmful, Mehta said that necessary orders may be issued shortly, leading the Bench to defer the hearing in the case.

Read the Affidavit:

Centre's Affidavit on use of Disinfectants on humans for COVID-19 management.pdf
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