Mitigating the transmission of COVID-19 has become an increasing focus for technical suppliers. A positive test can derail an entire tour. West London-based Entec Sound and Light, has taken measures into its own hands by investing in germicidal disinfection solutions and forming a new division, Entec UVC SafeClean, to promote and deliver them.
Entec UVC SafeClean specialises in environmental germicidal disinfection – effective against all COVID-19 variants, as well as all other viruses and bacteria. “We set up this division after a year of research into how we could best play our role in helping the music and cultural sector as well as ourselves safely get back to work in a post-COVID-19 world,” Entec UVC SafeClean Commercial Advisor, Adrian King explained in great detail.
Given Entec’s five decades of partnering and stocking the best technologies on the market, the new division undertook extensive due diligence and enlisted medical experts to find the right solution. This led to the discovery of Finsen Technologies, a specialist global UVC market leader based in the UK, which focuses on the medical world of operating theatres and ambulances, with germicidal disinfection solutions. “We felt it was our duty to take this world leading innovative technology into the broader markets,” King explained. “No other devices we looked at came close to what they do – they are the ‘gold’ standard.”
Vaccination and testing remain vital for the live events sector to return to full strength, according to Entec UVC SafeClean Medical Advisor, Dr David Lawrence. “Masks will partially decrease the spread from an infected individual to others and social distancing [of 2m or above] allows droplets to hit the ground before reaching another individual, depending upon airflow patterns and speech. Singing, shouting, coughing and sneezing dramatically increase the spread way beyond two metres. Closed air conditioning may propagate the spread of virus particles,” he added. “Aerosols, being at body temperature and lighter than droplets, dissipate upwards and can remain airborne indoors for 16 hours or more.”
Addressing airborne transmission is key. This can be achieved to some extent through complex air-conditioning systems deploying fresh air exchange or more effectively through UVC germicidal disinfection. “Manual cleaning and chemical sprays have proven to be ineffective and potentially hazardous in medical studies while the impact of UVC and HEPA ventilation filters has been validated time and time again,” King stated. “Our mission now is to share what we have learnt and ensure all commercial sectors are putting their efforts into effective solutions to keep us safe.”
Dr Lawrence highlighted the role of UVC in reducing the risk of fomite transmission (contracting COVID-19 from surfaces via hand to face), and also reaching areas where the virus can exist for years in biofilms at ceiling level and other difficult to reach areas. “Manual cleaning, even at the highest standard regulated in hospitals, only achieves a 50% cleansing rate,” Lawrence noted, discussing the potential role of UVC when it comes to safeguarding technical production crew, performing artists and audiences.
“Manual cleaning is of varying efficacy and costly financially and environmentally. Furthermore, manual cleaning can disperse virus-laden aerosols into the air risking operatives’ health and others entering the room up to 16 hours later,” he explained.
Finsen Technologies has created four devices which have different roles in creating safer environments. The Thor robot provides a high standard in surface and total room air cleaning. EIR machines maintain clean air while people are in a room and thereby mitigates the most potent threat of airborne transmission. Zeus and Hyperion cabinets clean small and larger high touch items such as computers, phones, microphones, IEMs and radios.
“The light from the devices does not damage surfaces or electrical goods. Critically, the machines calculate for you the required UVC dose to kill all pathogens in a particular space,” King explained.
“They are also IOT enabled which allows us to remotely monitor performance and create an audit trial of deployment to prove a device has been used at a particular time and place for a particular duration. We have found no other devices that both calculate dosage and audits applications for you. Without these features it is very likely that any solution will not be used effectively and it is very hard to ensure and prove compliance,” he noted.
Entec UVC SafeClean presently stocks demo units of four Finsen machines in its demonstration suite. “Each specialises in a different attribute — either cleaning the air, cleaning surfaces or cleaning items like phones and microphones. Each can be hired on a short-term basis from one hour to one year, with or without an operator, and all machines can be purchased from us as well,” he added, walking TPi through the offerings. “We can be flexible and work with the customer to figure out which commercial option is most effective for their needs.”
Direct exposure to UVC is harmful to skin and eyes. UVC machines, which were also used at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, are therefore constructed to prevent escape of rays and have fail-safe switch off systems.
Deployment is space dependent. “It’s all to do with the intensity of UVC versus room / venue size. If it’s a small area, it can take minutes to make the space virus free,” King said. This flexibility is particularly useful when visiting a string of different sized venues on the road. “We recently worked with Sarm Music Bank every day for a week, at the request of the production manager and band. Keen to seek more innovative ways to enhance their current disinfecting procedures and with their open and forward-looking approach to safety they deployed a combination of Thor and Eir on a weekly rental. This created an even safer working environment and ensured the upcoming shows were not put in jeopardy.”
In addition to safety, there is also a strong commercial advantage – not least being the cost saving in sanitising paraphernalia, such as antibacterial wipes. “For instance if you are touring and in a venue for a week, we can rent for just that length of time. We will have sufficient stock to support bands and venues with flexible deals from sales to rental which can be scaled accordingly. This can be supplied with an operator. The rental prices are extremely reasonable — as little as £100 a day. Contrast with the costs and disruption of positive COVID-19 tests amongst crew and artists and the risk to audiences and workmates.”
By deploying UVC technology adequate touring productions can significantly mitigate COVID-19 transmission risk and enable the so-called ‘new normal’ to happen with much reduced risk of additional outbreaks, according to King. “This solution will alleviate the problem with only marginal additional costs to the production budgets and show a duty of care to all those working on shows and events. We think over time artists, management and crew will add to their requirements the need for a safe working environment – which means UVC,” King theorised, weighing up the pros and cons.
“A combination of vaccine certificates, lateral flow testing and deployment of UVC at venues would enable businesses to stay open and artists to perform,” King said, offering to assist band and tour management looking for advice in advance of their next touring production or live event.
“In these circumstances risks will be significantly reduced and we would like the industry to lobby for these types of measures in advance. Spending around £100 a night on UVC is better than non-trading altogether,” he concluded. “After all, from a business perspective, it means the facility can stay open and we can all do what we love to do and earn a living while doing it.”
This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.