Covid-19 pandemic: Ventilate, open windows to cut risk, advises UK government

The Boris Johnson government on Wednesday released a new film based on research that shows ventilation and letting in fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce risk of infection from the coronavirus by over 70%
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows a screen displaying an image of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he takes part remotely via a Zoom video call in the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) with Labour Leader Keir Starmer, in a hybrid, socially distanced session in the House of Commons in London on November 18.(AFP)
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows a screen displaying an image of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he takes part remotely via a Zoom video call in the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) with Labour Leader Keir Starmer, in a hybrid, socially distanced session in the House of Commons in London on November 18.(AFP)
Updated on Nov 19, 2020 12:21 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

The Boris Johnson government on Wednesday released a new film based on research that shows ventilation and letting in fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce risk of infection from the coronavirus by over 70%.

England is currently midway into a month-long lockdown until December 2, with concerns that new infections may not allow for relaxation in restrictions before Christmas.

As of Tuesday evening, 20,051 new cases and 598 deaths were recorded across the UK.

The film produced with scientists at Leeds University illustrates how coronavirus lingers in the air in spaces with no fresh air, increasing the risk of people breathing in infected particles, and how the risk can be reduced significantly by regularly ventilating enclosed areas.

Officials said research has shown that being in a room with fresh air can reduce risk of infection from particles by over 70%, as fresh air dilutes the particles.

Experts recommend opening windows for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day and to leave windows slightly open continuously to remove infected particles lingering in the room.

They also advised that any household systems that use outdoor air, including kitchen or bathroom extractor fans, are used correctly and regularly as an additional method to remove infected particles.

Catherine Noakes from Leeds University, who advised on the film, said, “When a room does not have any fresh air, and where people are generating large amounts of aerosol through activities such as singing and loud speech, that is when transmission of coronavirus is most likely.

“Fresh air must come from outdoors – recirculating air just means the aerosols containing the virus move around the same room rather than being extracted outdoors. Ventilation units or any household systems that use outdoor air can be just as effective as opening windows or doors as long as they are limiting the recirculation of the same air.”

The coronavirus is spread through the air by droplets and smaller particles - known as aerosols - that are exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person as they breathe, speak or cough. They behave in a similar way to smoke, but are invisible.

The majority of virus transmissions happen indoors. Being indoors, with no fresh air, the particles can remain suspended in the air for hours and build up over time. The longer people spend time in the same room in the presence of these particles, the more likely they could become infected, the officials added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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