A leading air quality expert is calling for the introduction of more legislation around air quality in buildings and the issuing of ‘ventilation certificates’ as proof of compliance.
ore emphasis must be placed on the importance of good ventilation and the critical role that air cleaning systems must play in removing airborne viruses in indoor spaces, Head of the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London Professor Azeem Majeed said.
He argues safety enhancements are required in order to avoid new infection hotspots as the hospitality sector opens up further over the winter months, and to facilitate the full re-opening of the economy in 2022.
Commenting on his concerns, Professor Majeed said: “With COVID cases in Ireland now at peak levels not seen since last January, the last few weeks have illustrated that government, regulators and owners of indoor spaces across Ireland are not doing enough to ensure adequate air filtration and ventilation systems are in place to protect the public and employees returning to offices.
“This inaction is now starting to derail many of the sacrifices that everyone has made in the fight against COVID-19 and if we don’t address this with a greater sense of priority and purpose, we will continue to experience further negative consequences, including continued waves of infections, hospitalisations and deaths; increasing levels of sick leave; and the associated loss of productivity, notwithstanding the substantial cost to the economy,” he said.
Prof Majeed added that air quality regulations should be introduced in line with existing legislation for food safety and drinking water.
Meanwhile, Philip Dowds, managing director and founder of Irish family-owned smart buildings specialist OKTO said medical grade disinfecting filtration systems can help combat the spread of airborne viruses and improve health and safety by providing a “99.99pc efficiency rate on all pollutants down to .007 microns”.
“Coronavirus can be detected in the air up to three hours after emission, making it vital that owners and operators of indoor spaces where people gather, from bars and restaurants, nightclubs, offices, schools and universities, review their ventilation and filtration systems to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their building and stop infection hotspots from occurring,” Mr Dowds said.
Their comments come as nightclubs will open in Ireland on Friday for the first time since March 2020, as a slight easing of Covid-19 restrictions takes effect.
The Government had been hoping to go further on October 22 by announcing the ending of the vast majority of restrictions.
However, rising case numbers and warnings from health officials mean that many public health regulations – including mask wearing and physical distancing – will remain in place until February 2022.
Alongside the easing of guidelines for the hospitality sector, the Government is warning people to remain vigilant and cautious if the country wants to avoid a return to restrictions.
On Thursday night, Culture Minister Catherine Martin confirmed that nightclubs will be able to return with 100pc capacity.
Live entertainment venues will be permitted to have 1,500 people standing, under the updated guidelines.
Customers will be able to queue, in a socially distanced manner, at the bar.
The measures, which include extended opening hours beyond 11.30pm, are set to be reviewed in the coming weeks.
More broadly, Covid-19 certificates will still be required for indoor hospitality and indoor events.
Under the rules where people are seated in restaurants, there must be a maximum of 10 adults per table and a maximum 15 including children.
Covid-19 certificates will not be required for outdoor events, with limits on the size of them lifted.
This means full capacity can return to sporting events.
Religious services and weddings can also take place without any limits on attendees.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned the public on Thursday to be vigilant of businesses that do not ask for a Covid pass, urging people to insist that restaurants and pubs follow basic rules.
He said that avoiding the return of restrictions in the coming weeks and months would “demand vigilance” from members of the public.
Mr Martin said: “The bottom line is this, to avoid any new restrictions coming in, to avoid going back, we will demand vigilance on behalf of the people generally, all of us.”
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