AsianScientist (Feb. 22, 2022) – Affordable plastic barriers could help block viral exposure between riders on motorbike taxis, reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread while offering an economic lifeline for drivers amid the pandemic. This finding of a Bangladesh-UK research team was published in Physics of Fluids.
Ride-sharing motorcycle taxis are a crucial mode of transport and source of livelihood in several Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many drivers off the roads for months to contain the viral spread.
Depending on the motorbike speed and wind direction, the passengers and drivers alike could inhale viral particles emitted by cough and carried by the air flow. Some drivers began fitting their own plastic screens on their bikes to help protect passengers. However, the scientific evidence on the impact was lacking, so many governments did not encourage the practice.
To test the measure, researchers from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the University of Leeds in the UK analyzed viral exposure risk on ride-sharing bikes. They used computer simulations to measure background air flow and particle distribution. This allowed the team to follow the trail of virus-containing droplets emitted when the bike is moving at different speeds.
The data revealed that placing a plastic shield between the riders can physically block viral particles from depositing onto the passenger. Moreover, it alters air flow patterns, pushing droplets away and reducing viral exposure overall. While some droplets could still land on helmets or clothes, plastic barriers lowered the risk of inhaling droplets to help protect against COVID-19 infection.
The study is part of a larger project examining COVID-19 risk trade-offs for various modes of transport. With these findings, the team hopes that the countries can implement better evidence-based measures to allow people to travel and work as safely as possible.
“Given the immense economic, political, and social pressure for the motorbike taxis to be continued during the COVID-19 and similar such epidemics and pandemics, the findings of this study suggest that a shield be fitted between the driver and the passenger,” the authors concluded.
The article can be found at: Hetherington et al. (2021) Exposure risk analysis of COVID-19 for a ride-sharing motorbike taxi.
Source: Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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