TransLink announces pilot copper-based initiative to combat COVID-19

Copper has antimicrobial properties to aid in slowing transmission

Photo Courtesy of Teck Resources

Written by: Michelle Young, News Editor 

On November 10, TransLink announced a new pilot-program that aims to slow the spread of COVID-19. The initiative will use copper-based materials — which contain antimicrobial properties and are self-disinfecting — on high-touch areas of transit to “to help reduce the risk of transmission of pathogenic organisms.” 

Medical microbiologist Dr. Marthe Charles explained, “Copper has multiple ways of killing microorganisms, so one of the ways is by being toxic on contact, so that means that the microorganisms are not able to survive at the surface of the copper.

“We want to see if these products are durable and if they will retain their ability to kill germs over time while on public transportation. If this study was to be successful, self-disinfecting surfaces containing copper would become a valuable addition to cleaning hands and cleaning surfaces.” 

The pilot will take place on “two [SkyTrains], operating on the Expo-Millennium line and two charlie buses,” according to TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.  

In regards to cost and whether fare prices were going to rise, Desmond stated, “I don’t want to say cost isn’t an issue, but the reality is [that] this is an example of testing out new technologies and innovations.” He explained that if the project yields good results, he hopes that “we figure out a way to implement something that could have lasting benefits even beyond the coronavirus.”

The initial components of the project are being funded by Teck Resources. CEO of the company Don Lindsay, stated that “the cost is approximately $90,000 and the key is to get the results from the pilot and to then we step back and decide what’s the next step and who would fund that.”

“It’s a pilot. We’re gonna see and we’re gonna learn [ . . . ] if it really is an effective approach to improving public health, and then if it can be expandable to the various different features of our broad and complicated transit system,” Desmond said.