Air-conditioned rooms and offices must have exhaust fans

THE loosening of movement controls has resulted in more people working in offices, dining in restaurants and staying overnight in hotels or residences of relatives or friends. But most people are oblivious to the danger lurking in these air-conditioned enclosures.

While shopping malls, large office buildings and major hotels have centralised air-conditioning, split type air-conditioners are normally installed at offices, restaurants and budget hotels operating in shop houses with noisy compressors and hot condensers contained in outdoor units.

Indoor, a broad rectangular unit mounted on the wall or cassette unit concealed in the ceiling blows out air silently at set volume and temperature. With windows shut and door closed to prevent warm air from outside coming in, the interior is cooled by one or more air-conditioners.

But without ventilation, the same air keeps circulating within the room. With more people breathing the same air repeatedly, oxygen level drops and carbon dioxide increases rapidly. If a COVID-19 positive person is in the room, the airborne coronavirus could easily spread.

To reduce the concentration of airborne COVID-19, stale and polluted air need to be sucked out and fresh air drawn in. This could easily be accomplished by installing exhaust fans which are certainly affordable to owners of offices, restaurants and budget hotels located in shophouses.

Exhaust fans are also a must in the washrooms of offices and restaurants, and in the bathrooms of budget hotels and homes to suck out smelly and musty air. When exhaust fans are running, fresh air will automatically flow in through existing gaps such as under the door.

Better still, make an inlet where clean air can enter – but not rainwater – by covering the opening with metal gauze to filter out insects. Alarmingly, exhaust fans and ventilation inlets have not been incorporated as standard design or requirement for buildings and homes in our country.

COVID-19 virus trapped

Many multi-storey office building and shopping mals are not as safe as one may think because most centralised air-conditioning do not incorporate a system that allows fresh air to flow into the building at regular intervals.

Therefore, visitors and workers who spend long hours in large buildings are at risk and must always keep their masks on even when alone with no others around as the coronavirus can remain suspended in the air for up to eight hours in indoor spaces without proper ventilation.

For safety during this pandemic, ventilation is the key. It is safer to have a cuppa in a traditional coffeeshop without sharing table with others than enjoying premium coffee or tea in a café. Likewise, it is much safer to have a light meal than dine in at air-conditioned restaurants.

Exhaust fans are very affordable

The lifting of travel restrictions does not mean that we are out of the woods as COVID-19 infections are still hovering around 20,000 cases per day or 600,000 per month. This could mean another two million people catching COVID-19 from now until year-end.

The first COVID-19 case in Malaysia was detected on January 25 last year and by ned-2020, there were 471 deaths. During this period, the country was first under the movement control order (MCO), then conditional MCO (CMCO), recovery MCO (RMCO) and back to CMCO.

In June, the various movement control orders were superseded by the National Recovery Plan with four phases – Phase 1 being MCO, Phase 2 (CMCO), Phase 3 (CMCO) and Phase 4 (back to normal). But average daily cases surged to 5,987 in June, July (11,655) and August (20,419).

There was a slight drop in the first 11 days of September when average daily cases fell to 19,477. But the number of death reported on September 11 was truly shocking. Within 24 hours, 592 people in this country died of COVID-19, compared to only 471 for 12 months of last year.

Those who throw caution to the wind will be contributing to the statistics, including employers who do not bother about the air that keep circulating in their workplace. They ought to take heed that over 53% of the 1,549 COVID-19 clusters were linked to the workplace.

Moreover, action could be taken against employers or building owners for failing to abide by the Industry Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality 2010 under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. One concrete step everyone could easily take is to install affordable exhaust fans.

Those who provide air-conditioned comfort for their workers and customers must realise that they are also responsible to ensure the cool air within their premises is also safe to breathe. If not, the MySejahtera app could easily trace the place where COVID-19 infections had spread. – Sept 13, 2021


YS Chan is an Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies and a master trainer for Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia. He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Photo credit: Economic Times of India

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