Virus-laden droplets endanger dine-in customers

Dr Ooi delivers his virtual talk.

KUCHING: Dining at eateries is discouraged at this present time due to the risk of spreading or contracting Covid-19 especially through aerosols.

Dr Ooi Mong How, senior consultant paediatrician at Sarawak General Hospital, stressed that it was important to realise that even if a person was breathing at a normal rate or talking at a usual volume, they could generate fine aerosols.

“When larger particles are breathed in, they are just trapped in the upper airways and they do not travel down very far into our lungs.

“But those smaller ones generated during usual activities of talking or breathing can travel very low down into the respiratory system,” he said during a Zoom talk yesterday (Sept 14) on ventilation improvement standard operating procedures (SOPs) in non-residential buildings during the pandemic.

Furthermore, after the wide rollout of vaccinations, many people did not exhibit symptoms and thus the public could be unaware that they were actually infected with Covid-19.

“Each time we remove the mask and talk and eat, we could contaminate the air if we are infected or we could potentially breathe in contaminated air if other customers or friends that we are meeting are infected but unaware as they have no symptoms,” he said.

As such, Dr Ooi said that at this critical time, it was important to try not to remove one’s mask too often.

“Each time we remove our mask, we have to consider if it is safe to do so at that point in time and at that location,” he said.

He said that after many months of Covid-19’s presence, it was highly unlikely that the virus could be eradicated completely.

Thus, he said people needed to learn how to move forward in a safe way, and improving ventilation was one of the first steps in slowly heading towards pre-pandemic circumstances. 

With regard to the high number of daily cases currently reported in Sarawak, he noted that looking at the number of cases allowed people to understand how far the virus had spread in the community and also the fluctuations in cases.

“But what is more important for us to know is the more severe cases that require hospital admission, intensive care unit (ICU) care, and oxygen support. This is what we need to pay attention to when we look at the numbers,” he said.

Dr Ooi explained that previously during the early stages the pandemic, it was important to look at the number of cases as a whole as the fewer positive cases there were, the better the chances of eradicating the virus from the planet.

However, he pointed out that that the numbers should be viewed from a different perspective now as it was virus was likely here to stay.