ISLAMABAD: Walk-through disinfection gates could play a vital role to combat the spread of the coronavirus, to the point that the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has urged the government to make it mandatory for public and private sector companies to install such gates at their points of entry and exit.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration are installing 20 walk-through gates in the city to disinfect people and limit the spread of the virus.
Two have been installed at the Sabzi Mandi, one outside the Utility Store in G-9, one at a homeless shelter in Tarlai and more are being installed in katchi abadis, homeless shelters, the Pak Secretariat and other places that see crowds.
A CDA official who asked not to be named said that the gates use chemicals mixed with water that is then sprayed on people as they walk through them.
“Although we do not have scientific evidence about how effective they are against Covid-19, it is a fact that such sprays kill germs and can protect people from diseases,” he said.
He added that not everyone can afford to use expensive hand sanitisers, so such gates would be effective in limiting the spread of the virus.
He said: “Chemicals are mixed in the water, which is sprayed through a sprinkler system to disinfect people. Tunnel walk-through gates that are 20ft long are worth Rs200,000, and smaller ones are for Rs100,000. They spray chemicals around the clock, but later we may go for high-tech gates that have sensors. The cost of the electricity and chemicals is nominal, as the gates use a small pump. I would suggest the health ministry declare them mandatory for all offices.”
“One walk-through gate installed at the Utility Store has a 750 litre tank that lasts two and a half hours if kept on continuously,” he added.
Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) CEO Dr Asim Rauf said it was a positive initiative for different departments to install the gates.
“It has even been decided to install a walk-through gate outside the Drap building, however there is currently no proposal to declare it mandatory,” he said.
An official from the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), who was not authorised to speak on the record, said it was a good idea to make these gates mandatory.
“I have seen videos from different countries where such gates are installed. In China, it was mandatory for car drivers to park their vehicles and then walk through the gate and go ahead,” he said.
Touqeeruddin, project manager at the research organisation Emintechs, told Dawn that walk-through gates have three components, the electronic hardware, mechanical hardware and container.
“The mechanical hardware includes a compressor, water tank and air tank. Though gates can work without air tanks but in that case the compressor works more and can fall out of order. Some nozzles are included to spray water on people,” he said.
“The electronic hardware is the micro controller and sensors. The first sensor detects a person and starts spraying water and the second sensor disconnects the water sprinkler as soon as the person walks out. However it can be manual, in which case the gate will continue spraying water unless stopped by someone,” he said.
“We have researched walk-through gates and it was analysed that a prototype - or as a pilot project - a small walk-through gate, which can be used outside a house, can be made for Rs30,000. A bigger one, which can be used for more people, can be manufactured for Rs55,000. However, the cost can be reduced in the case of manufacturing on a commercial basis,” he said.
He said that although the solution used in the gates is called a chlorine-based solution, it is usually bleach diluted with water.
“Usually, 250 millilitres of bleach is included in 10 litres of water but there are many formulas available on the internet to use the amount of bleach for different surfaces and for different germs,” he said.
PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad said the government should make it mandatory for public and private organisations to install walk-through disinfection gates.
“The decision will help to stop the spread of the virus. Moreover the government should increase spraying in different parts of cities as the situation is worsening with every passing day,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020