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Clean Air - A necessity in today’s hotels and restaurants

Thursday, July 29, 2021, 14:00 Hrs  [IST]
HBI Staff | Hyderabad

By Dr. Rajvi Mehta, Microbiologist and Scientific Consultant at Trivector Biomed LLP

After a year of lockdown and online communications, people are looking forward to in-person meetings, conferences and holidays! Restaurants and hotels are waiting to welcome guests. But, it is “fear”; fear of contracting air-borne infections especially coronavirus and other viral, bacterial as well as fungal - that is keeping guests away.  The fear is not irrational. 

 What if the “previous” guest who occupied the hotel room was a carrier of microbes or infected? He, would have left the room but left behind “infected” particles and droplets which could have fallen on to the linen, furniture or could still be lingering in the air. Some of the high-end hotels are literally bending backwards to buy new linen and not just get it cleaned. An expensive proposition indeed but they are willing to do anything for the safety of the guests.  

But, what do you do about the air? With centralised air conditioning - what if somebody in the adjacent rooms had been infected? We would be breathing that same air? What about restaurants? What if somebody in the room is infected and releases the viral droplets while talking!  Centre for Disease Control reported on the probable transmission of Covid-19 by a single, asymptomatic individual dining at a restaurant to 10 others who were dining at the same time. There was no corona virus in the air ducts - so the air that came into the room was free from the virus. It was an internal transmission through the air containing infected droplets released by the infected person while talking!  A single minute of loud talking could launch 1000 virus containing particles. But, one cannot expect people to eat in silence. Dining is a part of our social interaction. We like food and we don’t like to eat in silence! 

Keeping hotels and restaurants unoccupied or partially occupied is unfair to both the hospitality industry as well as the guests. We need each other!  Cleaning air is complicated. Chemical disinfectants can cause allergic reactions and cannot be done in occupied rooms. UV light can destroy microbes but only those that come in the path of light. UV light cannot be used in room full of people and the microbes which do not come in the “path” of light will survive. 

There are many reports about air purifiers in the market. These mainly blast ions into the rooms but claim that they are plasma.  “Real” plasma is like lightening - you cannot have it out in the open. Most of these are ionisers - they release charged particles in the air and “bind” to microbes and neutralize them but do not kill them. Recently 4000 air purifiers from US Federal schools were recalled  because of safety and efficacy concerns. 

As stated earlier, plasma is the 4th state of matter like the lightening that strikes! When plasma strikes, it destroys whatever comes into its vicinity. An Irish company, Novaerus has created an innovation called NanoStrike which totally destroys microbes in nanoseconds leaving no chance for the microbe to mutate and shreds the microbial genetic material too. It is portable device which looks like a neat box but has the deadly plasma coils. The fans in the device suck the air which is immediately directly exposed to plasma. The plasma is generated and contained within the device within the coils so it has no detrimental effects. They come in three sizes appropriate for specific room dimensions. These units have been tested on actual Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2) for killing efficiency of more than 99.99%. in a short time.

This new technology seems like a viable option to keep the air in hotels and restaurants clean especially in situations where natural ventilation is not practically possible. It could be used in the common areas like restaurants. While, the guests could have an option of an add-on air-disinfectant device in their rooms. 

As hotels provide guests with clean drinking water, maybe clean, breathable air would entice the guests and give them confidence to turn back the “new” normal to “old” normal and live in hotel rooms and eat at restaurants without fear! This could be one investment which would pay back instantly for the hospitality industry.  It is time that we use technology in a multi-pronged manner to free ourselves from coronavirus as well as the fear that the virus has generated. 

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