askST: Are handrails in MRT trains sanitised and does the air-conditioning system spread germs?

Reader Gabriel Tham asked if hand rails in MRT trains are cleaned with sanitisers, and whether a train's air-conditioning system breed and spread germs - especially when commuters cough or sneeze in a packed carriage. Senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan answered.

The MRT system caters to around three million rides a day.To be effective, you would need to wipe down the hand rails with sanitisers every hour, at least. It would be more effective and more meaningful if commuters who feel they are prone to infection wash their hands after each ride.

All aircon and ventilation systems can be breeding ground for bacteria and fungi because dust and moisture build up. To prevent this, these systems are cleaned regularly, sometimes with a strong chemical. It is in the interest of operators to do this because a clean system is also usually an efficient system.

Are MRT users exposed to more germs than say, bus, taxi and private car users? I have not come across any study which tests this hypothesis. Again, commuters who are unwell should avoid packed places, or wear a mask if they have to. Same goes for people who are susceptible to catching a bug.

There are of course, other places which are crowded, such as a stadium, a pub or a mall. And people tend to spend longer periods in these places than on a train at any one time.

The best way to boost your body's immune system is to eat healthily, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water, and avoid negative stress.

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