Coronavirus: Can You Catch COVID-19 Through Your Air Conditioning?

UAE doctors have said the chances of catching coronavirus through air-conditioning (A/C) ducts is close to zero.

Many people in the UAE were worried about the transmission of the virus through A/C units particularly as summer is fast approaching, however officials have said the fear is unnecessary.

Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Infrastructure Development, said in a virtual educational conference on Tuesday. “I noticed some people on a social media group discussing if the virus can transmit through the AC units.

“I told them it is not accurate and there is no scientific proof behind it,” he added.

The minister decided to highlight the issue at the virtual conference, which was held with doctors, and all of them confirmed that fears were unfounded.

Emirati Dr Adil Sajwani, said the chances of transmitting the virus through the A/C was very low and close to zero as studies had shown COVID-19 was not airborne.

“So far, we have not seen any evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through air conditioning systems,” he said. “The virus is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air. If there is a possibility that the virus can transmit through an airshaft then all of us would be infected by now,” he added.

Experts and doctors present during the seminar with the minister

Sajwani said that if an infected person is staying in your building then it doesn’t mean that they can infect other residents through the air. It can only happen through close contact scenarios, he added.

“In the UAE, people with minor symptoms have been taken to quarantine in hotels which have centralised A/C systems, but there has been no record of the infection of staff within these hotels. That means the possibility of transmitting the virus through the A/C is very, very low and close to zero,” he added.

Sajwani referred to a study that had been conducted in China earlier this year on a cluster of coronavirus cases that had all originated from the same restaurant, but he said it wasn’t through the air conditioning system.

“The study was conducted in a restaurant with 91 customers, only nine people were infected because they were with direct contact with patients not because the virus spread in the air,” he said.

Dr Ahmad Al Addin from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), said that after the virus had become a pandemic a select committee of experts had concluded from research that the virus couldn’t be transmitted through air-conditioning.

“There is no scientific proof that you can transmit COVID-19 through air-ducts,” he said. “There is no physical proof it happened or can happen. As a precautionary measure, people should clean the filters and use multimedia filters (which utilises three or more layers of gravel rather than just sand in the filter) as well as keeping the temperature between 20 to 25 celsius,” he added.

Experts said that the simple act of opening a window could also help.

They advised people to maintain social distancing and avoid interacting with sick people, especially in confined spaces to minimise the risk of infection.

Minister Al Nuaimi also said that coronavirus would impact upon future building design, “With specifications to curb possible challenges,” he added, perhaps in reference to the number of people living in close proximity or the availability of free flowing air to combat lingering viruses.

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