Are We At Risk of Contracting COVID-19 in Malls? An Expert Answers

Amid the interest to revisit malls, one question is looming large – how safe is it to visit malls?

Updated
COVID-19
2 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

As part of the second phase of Unlock 1.0, shopping malls reopened on Monday, 8 June, after being shut down for more than two months due to the coronavirus lockdown in the country.

Amid the interest to revisit malls, one question is looming large in everyone’s minds – how safe is it to visit malls?

We spoke to Professor Ayan Banerjee, who teaches at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata, part of ISRC, to understand whether centralised air-conditioning plays a role and whether it increases the chance of catching COVID-19.

Speaking to The Quint, Professor Banerjee said that since ventilation is “not so great” in malls, it increases the risk.

“In malls, where ventilation is not great and there is no fresh supply of air being taken in, you know if they have not really updated their system, those malls stand at a greater risk. Central air conditioning might be worse.”
Professor Ayan Banerjee

He added that the particles carrying coronavirus travelled differently outdoors and indoors because of the very same reason.

“If you are outside, there is air everywhere. There is no coordinated direction in which the air is blowing all the time. It keeps shifting in different directions, the probability of air coming from Point A to Point B directly is much lesser than when you have this air current which is coming from the blower of the AC which is in one direction.”
Professor Ayan Banerjee

Elaborating on why central air conditioning makes it worse, Banerjee said that it is likely that the infection gets drawn into the AC and spreads throughout the mall – rather than simply spreading in one room.

So, what are the set of precautions that the management should take? While malls are advised to have proper filters, they are also encouraged to ensure staggered entry.

“Malls are required to follow strict social distancing measures. No one should be allowed to enter without the mask. Taking precautions is very important. But at the same time, paranoia is not the solution. It is not a disease that is going to be killer like cancer or HIV. But if you are immunocompromised, the recovery will be difficult.”
Professor Ayan Banerjee

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