Ventilation SOPs a must amid pandemic

Billy Sujang (bottom left panel), state chief environmental health officer from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), speaks during the virtual talk session as (from top left panel, clockwise) Prof Dr Anselm Su Ting of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; Dr Ooi Mong How, senior consultant paediatrician at Sarawak General Hospital; and Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng look on.

KUCHING: Owners/operators of non-residential buildings and spaces are required to implement the standard operating procedures (SOPs) pertaining to improvement of ventilation to reduce the spread of Covid-19 through aerosols.

Billy Sujang, state chief environmental health officer from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), said this SOPs had been endorsed by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) and were available at SDMC’s website.

“The SOPs are aimed at achieving optimal air dilution, air exchange, and air filtration in all non-residential buildings in Sarawak to keep the risk of Covid-19 transmission as low as possible among the occupants,” he said.

Billy Sujang, head of Public Health, Environment and Enforcement Section at the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH).

He noted that current scientific evidence suggested that in addition to direct droplet transmission, the Covid-19 virus could be transmitted by aerosols suspended in the air and moved by air currents.

“To reduce the risk of airborne transmissions, we need to dilute the air and exchange the contaminated air with fresh or clean air as frequently as possible,” he said.

He said this during a virtual talk session on the SOPs on ventilation improvement at non-residential buildings during the Covid-19 pandemic held via Zoom yesterday (Sept 14).

“These are basic SOPs which we will improve from time to time if needed, according to the needs and the current situation,” he said, adding that the recommendations in this SOP were based on minimum cost so as to be affordable for industry players and operators.

Billy said that this SOP would not last only for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, explaining that this would be developed into guidelines at a later stage for new developments and buildings.

He said the ventilation SOP had been drawn up by MLGH in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) represented by Prof Dr Anselm Su Ting from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The standard operating procedure (SOP) on ventilation improvement in non-residential building/space during the Covid-19 pandemic for the scope of ‘enclosed building/space with centralised air conditioning system’.

During the session, Dr Su explained that the SOP had been developed according to the configuration of the space. Thus, the SOP provides requirements for the following scopes:

•       Enclosed building/space with centralised air conditioning system

•       Enclosed building/space with openable windows and split air conditioning system

•       Enclosed building/space with openable windows and without air conditioning system

•       Enclosed building/space without windows or where window opening is not possible and without centralised air conditioning system

•       Building/space with wide front and back entrance openings

•       Kitchen within the building

•       Toilet and shower room within the building

The standard operating procedure (SOP) on ventilation improvement in non-residential building/space during the Covid-19 pandemic for the scope of ‘enclosed building/space with openable windows and split air conditioning system’.

He pointed out that the SOP for certain scopes also included optional additional improvements such as the installation of portable air cleaners.

Billy also said that the SOP should be read together with other latest SOPs issued by SDMC and the National Security Council (NSC) as well as practised in conjunction with other related guidelines including the Industry Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality 2010.

“This SOP is a set of procedures in addition to existing key measures to reduce Covid-19 transmission,” he said.

Also present during the session were Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng and Dr Ooi Mong How, senior consultant paediatrician at Sarawak General Hospital.