Indoors remains Covid-19 prime hotspot despite precautionary measures
Cape Town - Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have faced lockdown which came along with the closures of public spaces such as malls, restaurants and most public buildings, in effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Early information on Covid-19 deemed the virus incapable of airborne transmission with the Word Health Organization (WHO) taking to social media on March 29, 2020 saying “FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne,” and going on to say, “these droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors or surfaces”.
Shortly after, many researchers shared their findings of the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus, with the WHO responding with an update, saying that airborne transmission in “crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out”.
Economies took a huge hit, with many business closing down temporarily and eventually upon reopening applied strict health protocols within their buildings but continued to focus on disinfection rather than proper ventilation, reported Nature.
Since the beginning of 2021, the concerns over ventilation have surged, with healthcare workers, scientists, engineers and many other organisations calling on government officials across the world to address poor indoor air quality and take the necessary steps to reduce airborne transmission if the virus.
Jose-Luis Jimenez, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Colorado, in the US, said one of the problems is that governments and business continue spending huge amounts of money of disinfecting surfaces and that if half that effort was put into improving indoor air quality, it would make a massive impact.
However, getting the correct ventilation setting may be a challenging task as it remains unclear what the exact infectious dose of Covid-19 is needed to infect a person and how much ventilation is needed to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.
Ehsan Mousavi, a construction engineer at Clemson University in South Carolina, who studies indoor air quality and ventilation in hospitals, said that studies directly measuring the infection risk amongst ventilation rate would be unethical as it would require putting people in danger.
Regarding the ventilator systems currently in use in buildings, “we need to know more about these technologies, how they perform,” says Mousavi, for health organisations to advise based on clear science.
As the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out continues throughout the world, the priority for improved air quality and purification may drop accordingly, however, researchers may use this as an opportunity to develop technology that may benefit the world in future pandemics.