Lifts have changed our cities. Will the coronavirus, in turn, change lifts? How to imagine social distancing in a two-metre cube?
Push a button. Touch surfaces. Share a reduced space with other people. Get in and out of the lift at different floors. So many acts, which were previously benign, are now fraught with a health risk. Researchers have recently demonstrated that droplets can persist in the air of a lift cage, long after an infected person has left. The lift, a simple vertical means of transport, has become a kind of “anxiety box”. When they were created, the main dilemma of its users was simple: should a gentleman remove his hat in the presence of a lady?
Around the world, since the Covid-19 crisis, signs, instructions, maximum capacities, gel dispensers, delimited areas, queues and waiting times have made an appearance. Not to mention wearing masks or using elbows or a handkerchief to push the right button. Or, as in Korea, a ban on speaking in a lift, in order to keep your mouth shut and limit the risks.
Securing lifts, for yourself and others
However, some scientists argue that the risks of getting sick in an empty lift are quite low, in contrast to public transport, workplaces, restaurants. In short, places where people spend more time than in a lift. With the exception of one case in Korea, no transmission of Covid was found to originate from the use of a lift.
However, a growing number of initiatives is ongoing. Industrialists work on contactless start systems, ventilation equipment or disinfection units equipped with UV rays. Intelligent computer systems are being tested in order to regulate use, refining the “destination dispatch” principle that is already used in modern lifts: all employees to the 12th floor take the same lift that will not stop at intermediate floors.
There are currently an estimated 18 million lifts (4 of which in China alone) in operation in cities around the world.