New supermarket “disinfection booths” in France: FAQ

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Many supermarkets across France are starting to install “smart disinfection booths” or “tunnels” that promise to disinfect shoppers upon entry. Where are they and are they effective? We explain.

What are the “tunnels”?

They’re similar to the metal detector “doors” you see at airport security, but they’re meant to disinfect shoppers as they enter the store, to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

How do they work?

The process takes a few seconds. The tunnels scan your face to make sure you’re wearing a mask, and hand sanitizer gel is also available. The cabin takes your temperature with an infrared thermometer on the palm of your hand.

It then sprays a disinfectant solution and uses ultraviolet rays to disinfect further.

Paul-Antoine Lanfranchi, director of Corse Chimie Industrie, a company that sells cabins in Corsica, told a source France 3 Corsica Viastella that the cabins operate “by ultrasound, ultraviolet rays and misting of an isodized water-based solution”.

He said: “It’s not a fail-safe but it plays a role. [in limiting the virus spread]. »

Where did the idea come from?

These portals have already been in use for about seven years in Asia, and similar machines have been used in schools and universities in Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. They have also been seen previously in Turkey, Morocco, Russia, Northern Ireland (see video below) and Belgium.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin even installed one in his residence in an attempt to prevent visitors from bringing Covid-19 to the site.

What is used in the fog and the machines?

The solution is usually a mixture of chlorine (strongly diluted bleach) or an iodine derivative, and the effectiveness depends on the concentration of the solution.

UV lamps are generally considered to be effective against viruses – but too short an exposure time limits its effectiveness, while too long exposure can be dangerous.

Where are they in France?

They first appeared in Isère in May, before being used in a supermarket in Plérin, Brittany, at the end of July.

Since then, they have been installed in supermarkets, hypermarkets and even in some stores and restaurants in cities including:

  • Oups, Have
  • Monastier-sur-Gazeille, Haute-Loire
  • Narbonne, Occitanie
  • Ajaccio, Corse-du-Sud, Corse
  • Pertuis, Vaucluse
  • Nice, Alpes-Maritimes

The Pertuis hypermarket bought “a complete kit”, including UV lamps and a portal that records the number of people in the store at any time, at a price of € 12,000, from a company in Valbonne, Alps -Maritimes.

Are they likely to spread further in France?

The market is growing.

Sevan Jourbajian, a company manager in Isère, says theirs is the only “certified” company making the machines in France, although there are other developers in Lille and Toulouse, he said.

The company Told France 3 that since May 22, it has been certified to produce machines “to the necessary standards”.

More and more companies have sprung up in Tourcoing and Valenciennes, in the north of the country, and movable doors have also become more popular. They are designed for use at temporary events and were installed at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival.

Two companies have also emerged in the Alpes-Maritimes: Saniboxx in Valbonne and Axiome in Mouans-Sartoux.

Are the machines really efficient?

The booths are unlikely to eliminate 100% of all bacteria, but they have been shown to be effective in lab tests, and their makers say they can make a difference in the spread.

Eric Peltier, head of the Saniboxx company, which supplied the intermarché booths in Aups, in the Var, told the LCI source that the machines use “a dry, electrostatic fog which attracts the elements suspended in the air ”and“ ozone and UV rays have an oxidizing power on germs and viruses, which leads to their degradation ”.

But he admitted that the machines were probably not 100% efficient given the number of variables possible in a real public space, saying, “ [They have been tested in] laboratory conditions, which included a very specific type of clothing, without wind. In reality, the real conditions are much more complex. ”

The Health Directorate warned: “Asymptomatic people can spread the virus even after going through the machine.”

Infectious disease specialists say that even after using one of the machines, hygiene rules still apply, and that it is essential to “rub your hands with a 70% alcoholic gel” and ” do not go shopping if you are infected ”.

Dr Olivier Bouchaud, from the infectious and tropical diseases unit of Avicenne in Bobigny, Seine-Saint-Denis, said: “For objects like trollies, this could be interesting. [effective]. But for people, I’m less sure. How can a simple mist reach a virus that is in the back of the neck, in the pockets of a coat, anywhere the hands can go, where the virus can hide?

“Unless you are soaked in a bath or have soaked clothes, a person cannot be fully disinfected.”

Dr Bouchaud said: “It’s more of a gadget to reassure the most anxious, but it has no side effects or risks if used correctly.” But he warned that “people might feel protected and put in less effort once they get through the frame.”

He recommends that machines be monitored, so that a person with a temperature is denied access.

This information is adapted and translated from this article on France 3.

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