BANGKOK, 29 January 2020: A face mast might help keep the novel coronavirus at bay, but Thailand’s Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce says there’s a “touch risk” inherent in airport fingerprint technology.
In a letter to Thailand’s Immigration Bureau commissioner, Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, sent 23 January, the chambers suggested airport fingerprint technology could inadvertently constitute a health risk in the battle to contain the virus. Thousands of travellers pass through the immigration counters touch the glass fingerprint readers without a sanitising process being in place to keep the glass screen clean of germs.
The World Health Organisation alerts travellers to the potential risk of human-to-human infection from contact with secretions such as nasal droplets left behind by someone who has contracted the disease.
At immigration checkpoints at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the prints from four fingers are taken on a plain-glass plate scanner, and that may pose a risk.
The joint chambers committee in the letter to the commissioner claimed the glass surfaces were often “dirty with no means provided to clean them, let alone sanitise them.”
Chamber members observed that travellers often feel uncomfortable using the glass-covered readers for this reason and worry about the prospect of having caught something.”
The chambers cited the example of Singapore where the immigration checkpoints offer sanitising spheres at the checkpoints, long before the novel coronavirus became a threat.
The recommendation: Provide sanitising apparatus and disposable wipes at every location where fingerprint readers are deployed.
Health officials warned that depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus could potentially be transmitted by touching something that an infected person touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Face masts are considered a critical barrier to prevent infection, but experts recommend frequently washing your hands will help to prevent the spread of the virus between people.
In the latest update, 106 people have died in China, and 4,500 cases have been confirmed mainly in Wuhan and Hubei province. Cases have been reported in 12 countries with eight cases in Thailand, of which five have since been discharged.