By Angela Casco
Fighting an invisible and still relatively unknown enemy that is coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) requires us to fight in more ways than one–the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in the whole Luzon region, social distancing, working from home, home quarantine, frequent handwashing, and wearing personal protective equipment like masks and face shields.
As the number of confirmed cases continue to grow, though—already at 552, as of late afternoon of March 24—it seems we should be doing more.
Enter the sanitation tent, a simple cleansing facility that has long proven itself effective in fighting infectious diseases.
But what exactly are sanitation tents, how can they help prevent further transmission of Covid-19, and why should authorities start putting them up in public places?
Cleanliness is better than cure
With a vaccine or cure still under research, authorities have been emphasizing personal hygiene and mindfulness in sanitation now more than ever. This is where sanitation tents can help.
Also called decontamination tents, these units are widely used for cleansing subjects or objects of contaminants such as micro-organisms or hazardous materials, including chemicals, radioactive substances, and yes, infectious diseases like Covid-19.
A typical sanitation tent features three components: the structure or the frame, a diffuser system, and a disinfectant solution. A person just needs to come into these tents, stand with their feet apart and arms spread out, and the disinfectant will be sprayed all over.
Its function is to limit the spread of contaminants from the release area or “hot zone,” which in the Philippines’ case is Manila, where the first confirmed cases have been reported on the last day of January.
A typical sanitation tent features three components: the structure or the frame, a diffuser system, and a disinfectant solution. A person just needs to come into these tents, stand with their feet apart and arms spread out, and a misting system will lightly spray disinfectant all over.
Used by LGUs
Local government units (LGUs), both inside and outside Manila, have recognized the need for these tents early on in the battle against Covid-19.
Marikina, for instance, has not only built a laboratory testing center with 3,000 testing kits ready, it has also set up decontamination tents in public places as early as March 13, all to prevent, if not to detect early, infections in the city. These tents discharge a plant-based solution to disinfect an individual.
Mayor Marcy Teodoro himself has entered one of these tents to be decontaminated, as seen in a Facebook post by the city’s public information office.
REMARKABLE MARIKINA Mayor Marcy Teodoro steps inside a decontamination tent to demonstrate how it works
Pasig, on their end, not only has disinfectant drones, they have also put up sanitation tents outside its city hall, and in two city-run hospitals, Pasig City General Hospital and Child’s Hope Children’s Hospital.
In a tweet, Mayor Vico Sotto says every individual that goes inside and outside the said buildings must stop by these tents for disinfection.
PREVENTIVE PASIG Mayor Vico Sotto has ordered that sanitation tents be placed in key public places like (top) Pasig City General Hospital and (bottom) Pasig City Hall
Baguio City has also started putting up sanitation tents in “critical public areas” to “allow disinfection of persons, especially health workers, frontliners, and employees who cannot afford to stay at home through sterilization lasting 30 seconds” and essentially, to prevent community transmission of the viral disease.
BAGUIO’S GOT YOUR BACK The country’s summer capital, led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, have also started putting up sanitation tents where disinfection lasts for 30 seconds
About 20 units will be placed in various locations in the country’s summer capital, including Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center’s isolation and CT scan rooms, the Lindi Hotel containment area, and district health centers.
In a report by Manila Bulletin’s Zaldy Comanda, CBAO OIC Arch. Johnny Degay says their tents are made using low-cost, recyclable household materials.
The use of decontamination tents in the said LGUs can be likened to Vietnam’s “sterilization chambers,” where residents go to disinfect themselves for free.
In the Philippines, a group of industrial designers, chemists, and engineers, who are studying or have graduated from UP-Diliman, as well as Ateneo De Manila University and University of San Carlos in Cebu, is developing a sanitation tent design that’s easy to build, using only readily available and affordable materials.
Project head and lead industrial designer August Patacsil says they are currently calling for more volunteers such as designers, chemists, virologists, microbiologists, visual artists, and mathematicians from different parts of the Philippines. He says that once the design is ready, LGUs can access the design for free.
“It’s time to give back,” he says. “Rest assured that we are doing our best to get the tents to you and your community to help mitigate the transmission of Covid-19.”