Ways To Reduce COVID-19 Risks On Public Transport

COVID-19 is (obviously) highly contagious, this has been shown by the rate at which cases have grown around in many places around the world – forcing many into lock-down to help stop the spread. As cities and countries, Australia included, begin to reopen many aspects of life will need to change to avoid further outbreaks and surges of infection. An important part of life for many is public transport, which has been flagged as high risk of disease outbreak.

Steps commuters can take to reduce COVID-19 risk

There are some simple steps commuters can keep in mind when taking public transport. These will help reduce the virus transmission risks and prevent further outbreaks of coronavirus, as well as other diseases.

Further to this, there are some changes that could be made in the surfaces and equipment themselves. The International Association of Public Transport have stated public transport is considered a virus and bacteria transmission high-risk environment due to a number of factors, citing “a variety of surfaces that are commonly touched (ticket machines, handrails, doorknobs, etc.)” as a key issue.

Public transport upkeep to improve hygiene

MTR Cleaning Robot

Focus on hygiene and sanitation on public transport has been increasing, China has implemented steps such as checking staff daily and ensuring they wear proper protective gear including gloves and face masks. The bus fleet in Shenzhen is cleaned and sanitised after every trip and are allowed to only be filled to 50% capacity to ensure social distancing is possible. There are also health control measures added to security checkpoints throughout the metro and train stations in China.

Cities around the world are providing hand sanitiser in public areas and transport vehicles, as well as cleaning and upgrading air conditioner filters. Some have even fitted window vents to help with natural ventilation and reduce the amount of stagnate air in the vehicles.

Technology has been employed in a few places to help tackle the issues. MTR (Hong Kong’s rail operator) employing a fleet of cleaning robots to disinfect train stations and carriages. Meanwhile, back in China, Shanghai is disinfecting buses using ultraviolet light.

Reduce the spread with antimicrobial design

When reducing the risk of infection from contagious pathogens is added to the considerations of design for public transport spaces, copper has been identified as a useful resource. Copper surfaces have been shown to destroy coronavirus within 4 hours of contact, so it makes sense to use copper coatings and products in these sort of environments. Further research in the United States shows that fitting out hospital rooms and equipment with copper resulted in infection rates being reduced by 58%.

Copper-coated push plate

Melbourne based SPEE3D are attempting to tackle these and similar issues by coating frequently touched surfaces with antimicrobial copper and it’s alloys. They’ve started by using their LightSPEE3D 3D printer to add a coating of copper to door touch-plates.

The methods and processes used by the SPEE3D team are swift, effective and extremely innovative. Having completed a proof of concept – coating a stainless-steel door touch plate with copper – which takes just 5 minutes, the team have shared the digital files with partners around the world. Similar copper-coated touch plates can now be found at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Swinburne University in Melbourne as well as the University of Delaware in the USA.

The success and simplicity of the push plate (and other trial installation) modifications shows how effective developing simple, yet highly impactful engineering solutions can be at dealing with COVID-19, as well as other easily transmittable pathogens. As the technology develops and updates in increase, it could be a solution to disease harbouring public transport touch surfaces mentioned above. and updates in increase, it could be a solution to disease harbouring public transport touch surfaces mentioned above.

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