Sources said the State government instructed all District Collectors on Friday to dismantle them.
Right from the time the first tunnel was installed in Tirupur to spray water mixed with sodium hypochlorite, a chemical used in cleaning solutions, many had questioned its efficacy, pointing out the opinion from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that chlorine was not effective to kill the pathogen on humans. On the other hand, it was potentially more harmful due to the damage it can cause to the mucous membrane and also the skin.
On Friday, during his review meeting with medical experts, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was informed that there was no scientific evidence to prove its efficacy. “After the review meeting, a circular was sent to all the District Collectors to immediately dismantle the disinfection tunnels,” an official confirmed.
Many district administrations had set up similar tunnels - including a few in Chennai by the city Corporation - and many more were being planned. “But now, after the side effects of the tunnel were highlighted, the government decided to dismantle them,” another official said.
The chemical, sodium hypochlorite, had gained infamy after the outrage triggered by the Uttar Pradesh government using it to spray on migrant labourers who were returning home from Delhi. Such was the outrage over the UP incident that authorities had called for an investigation after a video went viral. Even the Opposition parties had raised a hue and cry over the incident. Such disinfectant tunnels were first used in China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, even there, they had proven to be ineffective.
The World Health Organisation has stated that sodium hypochlorite exposure may cause nasal irritation, sore throat and coughing. Exposure to stronger concentration of the chemical can cause serious damages including burning pain, redness, swelling and blisters.