Blog: Living with Covid
The ‘Living with Covid’ plan, published last week, details how pandemic policies will come to an end. But what does living with Covid mean for the future of ventilation?
We’ve added a new disease to our population, more infectious and severe than flu.
Future surges of this disease are likely to happen and we need to have a plan to deal with these surges – but what does this plan need to include?
The ‘Living with Covid’ plan, published last week, details how pandemic policies will come to an end.
It was announced that self-isolation would be axed and free testing provisions will largely end this April. The plan sets out in clear detail the ways that the UK’s current Covid-19 infrastructure will be quickly dismantled.
When the plan was launched, the word ‘ventilation’ didn’t hit the headlines or appear in many of the news stories. ‘Living with Covid’ is a hefty document, over 60 pages in length - the section on ventilation taking up a mere three paragraphs.
Ventilation and Covid recovery
The government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, recently said investing in building ventilation will play a key role in helping the country recover from the Covid pandemic and prepare for future health emergencies.
Another Professor, Cath Noakes, who joined the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) felt so strongly about ventilation, she changed her Twitter handle from #hands #face #space to #ventilate to encourage people to start taking ventilation seriously.
So, maybe we need to push it up the news agenda - especially the important role ventilation can play in helping to deliver infection resilient environments.
Where do we go from here?
We need to have a plan to deal with these surges, we simply can’t return to the long, national lockdowns of years gone by.
Whilst it’s a huge step forward to have a vaccination programme in place, Omicron has sadly proven that antibodies are no guarantee against high levels of infection and daily disruption. As we speak, super spreading is still happening in our enclosed, occupied spaces, on our public transport systems, in our restaurants, gyms, shopping centres, classrooms, offices and on our factory floors.
We should not forget about the clinically vulnerable and the elderly. What strategy is in place to protect them? Now isolation is axed and masks are no longer a legal requirement, what does ‘living with Covid’ mean for this group in our society?
The new normal
We can’t go back to the old ‘normal’, but we can go forward! A Covid conscious future, firmly driven by what we have learnt from this pandemic is achievable.
What have we learnt? After the power of the vaccine comes the extraordinary importance of improving indoor ventilation.
If we invest in ventilation now, we’ll not only help the aftermath of Covid, but cleaner indoor air will reduce the transmission of other airborne diseases - these include the common cold, influenza, and chickenpox.
Health, concentration, lower absence rates in the workplace and a reduced disruption to the education system are also huge benefits linked to ventilation.
Business owners and operators need to understand the importance of improving ventilation and they need better support to do this. It’s not just about opening a door or a window. It’s a long-term solution, not a quick fix, and one that will involve investment.
Future ventilation regulations
In the longer term, consideration of infectious disease transmission needs to be embedded into all building ventilation regulations and associated statutory guidance. We need to identify performance standards and key measures will need to be drawn up to ensure compliance is achieved.
The Government recently commissioned a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering with the aim of establishing how our built environment could be made more infection resilient (the report is due be published in May). Whilst the results will be interesting, it does feel as though we are dismantling our current Covid infrastructure at a rapid rate without having any real long-term ventilation action plan in place. Only time will tell.
What are your views, should ventilation appear more heavily in our resilience planning?
About the author
Barry Hobday is the Managing Director at Motorised Air Products (MAUK). With the help of innovative research, MAPUK and its associated suppliers are committed to using pioneering product design and technology to provide unique solutions in air ventilation.