Toothpicks in elevators: Dubai apartment buildings adapt to the coronavirus

New and creative methods have been introduced to discourage people from touching buttons in lifts

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As UAE residents try and control the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, creative ways to avoid touching lift buttons have been introduced.

One such solution that has been making the rounds on social media is using toothpicks instead of fingers to press lift buttons.

Saleh Bin Lahej tower in Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai, is one such building to have introduced the method in lieu of hand sanitiser in the lift. Toothpicks have been stuck into a piece of foam in the elevator which can be used to press buttons, then dropped into an empty water bottle placed below..

Saskia Warren, a British swimming coach, who lives in the building explains that using the toothpick takes a little getting used to. “It’s not hard,” she says, “but you can’t hold the end of the stick and push, you have to hold in the middle, which you don’t think about until you’ve done it once, broken one and have to do it again.”

The idea of toothpicks in elevators to contain the spread of the coronavirus has been popular in countries around the world, and has been a technique used since at least the 2003 SARS outbreak.

The system has also been seen in other Dubai neighbourhoods like Bur Dubai.

Toothpicks found in the elevator of Al Rais building, Bur Dubai. Courtesy of Shivani Moorjani

Shivani Moorjani, a resident of Al Rais building in Bur Dubai noticed the toothpicks set up in her elevator roughly three days ago. According to her, it’s an initiative taken on by the building residents themselves.

“It’s a close knit community here in the building, everyone here knows each other and they’re taking initiative. I’m not sure who exactly set it up in the lift, but building residents have been stocking up new toothpicks to replace ones that have been used over the last few days,” she says.

Toothpicks aren’t the only tools being used to stop people from having direct contact with elevator buttons. Diamond Views 3 in Jumeirah Village Circle has tissue boxes stuck within lifts – complete with a bin at the bottom to dispose of the tissue that is used to touch the buttons.

Building resident Vikas S says it was set up about four days ago, along with hand sanitiser dispensers in corridors and in the basement.

Finally, some elevators are encouraging residents to practice social distancing with the use of tape and footprint stickers. Elevators in Central Park Towers in DIFC have stickers placed to urge residents to keep a safe distance from each other and prevent overcrowding within the lift.

Lifts in Central Park Towers, DIFC, encouraging social distancing

While knowledge about the coronavirus is still growing, according to a study, the virus has a life span of about 72 hours on plastic and steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and half an hour airborne in still, enclosed spaces.

People touching contaminated surfaces run the risk of infecting themselves, especially if they touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Washing hands frequently in these cases is highly recommended. And, of course, practicing social distancing.