Chinese cities are rolling out disinfectant tunnels and spray trucks to ward off the coronavirus - but experts don't think it will work

  • The coronavirus outbreak has driven a demand for medical disinfectants in China.
  • Chinese cities have set up 'disinfection tunnels' and dispatched spray trucks to help sanitize streets, buildings, and even people.
  • The demand has sent workers into overdrive - but experts say the sterilization techniques might not actually work.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
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Following is a transcript of an episode of Business Insider Today. Watch the full episode here.

This machine can supposedly disinfect people in seconds - and many are using it to combat the coronavirus. But experts aren't so sure it actually works.

The sterilizing system installed in the Chinese city of Chongqing is part of a larger effort to control the virus outbreak.
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All sorts of misting mechanisms and spray trucks are cropping up in cities and towns across China.

But are these efforts actually working?

The coronavirus originated in the city of Wuhan. It's killed over 2,600 people and infected more than 79,000. The virus spreads quickly, primarily through coughing and sneezing.
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Reporter: "How many times are the elevators disinfected every day?"

Community worker: "At least two times a day. Sometimes four to five times."
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coronavirus

Reuters

Chinese cities have set up 'disinfection tunnels' that spray a mist that purportedly kills 99% of viruses.

In Wuhan, on top of the quarantine measures, authorities recently ordered all residential areas to introduce a lockdown management system.

Tian Wenbo, Wuhan resident: "As the virus continues to spread, control measures are becoming more stringent. People cannot easily get in and out of the neighborhoods. Nonresidents cannot enter."

But quarantines can't solve everything, and as a result, many localities are resorting to sprays consisting of a mixture of bleach and water.
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One company in Shanghai set up a passageway with a mist that purportedly kills 99% of viruses.

The need for disinfectants has gotten so extreme that one of the largest bleaching powder companies in China is running at full capacity to meet demand.

Hu Qiwen, Sinopec Jianghan Salt and Chemical Complex: "For this type of bleaching powder, 20 barrels make up a ton. Every ton can formulate disinfectant enough for 10 hospitals equipped with 1,000 beds per day."
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Chinese cities have undertaken widespread sterilization efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak.

But there's no evidence to suggest that bleach sprays are effective against the coronavirus, and they could actually be doing more harm than good.

Mark Tucker, Chief Scientific Officer, Decon7 Systems: "Chlorine bleach doesn't actually penetrate bodily fluids. It doesn't penetrate grease and grime on surfaces, things like that. It doesn't actually get to the virus."
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"If they're directly inhaling the bleach, that's not something, you know, you'd want to expose humans to."

Mark Tucker works for Decon7 Systems, a US disinfectant manufacturer that's sending literal tons of product to China.Tucker: "Another hundred tons will be arriving in China before the end of the month, and we expect the demand next month to be essentially the same or maybe even greater than it is this current month."
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coronavirus

Reuters

The need for disinfectants has gotten so extreme that one of the largest bleaching powder companies in China is running at full capacity to meet demand.

Many disinfectants are capable of killing off 99.9% of germs, which is another way of saying that none are 100% effective.

Experts like Mark say these public displays won't do much to stop the spread of the virus.
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Tucker: "The coronavirus tends not to last very long outdoors anyway. The most effective disinfectant processes tend to be something that's done indoor."

And most disinfectants only last for 24 hours, meaning frequent reapplication is necessary. 

Until the fear of infection subsides, many residents are taking a more basic - and practical - precaution: staying indoors.
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Chen Lanying, Wuhan resident: "I feel inactive staying at home. I used to dance in many public places. But now I don't dare go out."
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