With further easing of lockdown restrictions planned for 17th May, pubs, restaurants, gyms, offices and other businesses should prepare for reopening by checking and improving their ventilation. The vital importance of good ventilation in helping reduce transmission of Covid-19 has been highlighted once again in new advice published in an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) ‘Covid-19 has redefined airborne transmission’. According to experts in the editorial, any future attempts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 should be focused on tackling close airborne transmission of the virus which is considered to be the primary route for its circulation. They highlight “the need for added emphasis on ventilation because the tiniest suspended particles can remain airborne for hours, and these constitute an important route of transmission”.
Ventilation industry leader Vent-Axia welcomes this latest advice, which adds to the raft of evidence and guidance that supports ventilation as key to making indoor spaces safer. As we start to unlock from the latest lockdown, effective ventilation will prove a crucial tool in helping to prevent a rise in infection rates. The Government has confirmed this with its recent Public Health England guidance ‘Ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus’ which explains the importance of ventilation in stopping the spread of coronavirus.
However, the BMJ editorial also shares other business benefits that come from improving ventilation apart from helping tackle Covid-19. With better ventilation, indoor air quality will improve for businesses, reducing sick leave for other respiratory viruses as well as helping those with allergies. Lower absenteeism and improved productivity, could save costs for companies, which in turn would offset the cost of a ventilation upgrade. The editorial also recognises the likelihood that Covid-19 may become a seasonal virus like the flu and so any improvements in ventilation will be beneficial in both the long and short term.
Jenny Smith, Head of Marketing at Vent-Axia said:
“We welcome this latest advice from the experts set out in the BMJ editorial which once again highlights the critical role ventilation plays in reducing coronavirus transmission – something that is essential to help us return to some kind of normality. Now is the time to check ventilation to ensure there is enough airflow to dilute the virus in the air and improve indoor air quality. Ventilating for longer and opting for ventilation with higher airflow volumes will help reduce the risk. At Vent-Axia our knowledgeable ventilation consultants can offer advice on the most suitable ventilation for each setting to help make buildings Covid-secure. We also have an excellent spares department to help ensure any existing ventilation is in full working order.”
The editorial published in the BMJ is backed up by the Government’s guidance, published in early March, ‘Ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus’ which explains how coronavirus is spread and the vital role ventilation plays in reducing the risk of catching the virus. The guidance looks at how to improve ventilation in both domestic and commercial settings. In addition to opening windows and doors, it details the importance of making sure any mechanical ventilation is working properly and that ventilation systems should be set to bring fresh air in and not recirculate indoor air. It states that in workplaces, clear guidance on ventilation should be provided to all employees and that ventilation should be considered as part of making your workplace or indoor public space Covid-secure. If unsure it also recommends seeking advice from an HVAC engineer to ensure that ventilation systems meet current standards.
This latest Covid guidance builds on extensive existing research and advice. When the UK first locked down in March 2020, relatively little was known about Covid-19. However, over the course of the year, much has changed. When the virus emerged the possibility of airborne transmission of Covid-19 was considered but, as a novel virus, it was important to gather evidence to prove this.
Early on in the pandemic, the importance of ventilation was already being recognised. At a Covid-19 briefing on 29th April 2020 Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam confirmed that ventilation lowers transmission rates from respiratory viruses. He stated:
“There is a definite truism across all of the science literature, that ventilation is a most critical part of reducing transmission from respiratory viruses.”
And since this press briefing the evidence has continued to build. In May 2020, the Government’s Covid-19 return to work strategy was published citing ‘Keep Indoor Places Well Ventilated’ as one of the key principles. The strategy also stated ‘Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors’ and advises to ‘Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate’.
In November, the Government launched a public information campaign which highlighted how ventilating indoor spaces can reduce the risk of coronavirus infection by over 70%. A short film released as part of the campaign shows how coronavirus lingers in enclosed spaces, and how to keep homes ventilated. The campaign followed The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) acknowledgment that ‘Ventilation represents a very important factor to prevent the virus from spreading indoors’. Public Health England’s guidance ‘COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features’ also acknowledged that airborne transmission can occur in ‘poorly ventilated’ spaces. Meanwhile, at the end of March the Government launched of its ‘Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air’ public information campaign which includes a film highlighting the impact of fresh air on reducing the risk of transmission.
Throughout the pandemic Vent-Axia has been sharing the latest guidance and valuable expert advice on the positive effect of ventilation in helping tackle COVID-19, on improving indoor air quality and creating a healthy environment while working from home. This body of essential information is consolidated in a useful guide called ‘The Effect of Ventilation on COVID-19’ and a companion webpage www.vent-axia.com/dilutethevirus, which gives practical advice on how indoor ventilation is important to reduce virus transmission.