Coronavirus: Could split air conditioning units be spreading COVID-19? Expert advice

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People who use air conditioning “split” units that recirculate the same air are being advised to use them with open windows, according to British experts who spoke to the Telegraph, after the World Health Organization acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of COVID-19.

Split air conditioning units that do not have a “dedicated source of outside air supply into a room… could be responsible for recirculating and spreading airborne viral particles into the path of socially distanced users,” Dr. Shaun Fitzgerald, a fellow at the Royal Academy of Engineering, told the Telegraph.


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A cat sits in a balcony surrounded by hanging laundry and shoes on air conditioning units in Valletta. (Reuters)
A cat sits in a balcony surrounded by hanging laundry and shoes on air conditioning units in Valletta. (Reuters)

According to the Telegraph’s report, there are two types of air conditioning units, one where the air is drawn from the outside while another, commonly known as “split” units where the air is drawn from within a room and passed over cooling coils and then sent back into the room.

“The recommended strategy now, if you have one of these split units, is to throw the window open and sacrifice your desire for a cold or cooler environment. If there is a modicum of wind it will move the air around," Fitzgerald added during his interview with the Telegraph.

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Fitzgerald advised that if people with split units are not able to open windows, then they should not be using it in a space occupied by more than one person at a time.

At least 239 scientists in 32 countries penned an open letter last Monday to the WHO outlining evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

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