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Building ventilation key to reducing Covid-19 spread says expert

Brendan Hughes

VENTILATION in buildings is key to tackling the spread of Covid-19, an architecture academic has said.

Orla Hegarty, assistant professor at the school of architecture at University College Dublin, said improving indoor air quality is a "low-cost, immediate" strategy to suppress the virus.

The academic said the airborne spread of a virus is "really the critical way that it is being transmitted".

She told RTÉ Radio One's 'Today with Claire Byrne' programme how "even with a small window open" ventilation could be improved within buildings.

"The key to it really is not to be telling everybody to halve their contacts, but to target very much the locations where the super-spread is happening and they're all within buildings," she said.

"So if you can sort out the air quality in buildings you can actually suppress every virus, and you're not waiting for a vaccine and you can see immediate results."

She added: "I suppose really the pandemic has spread through under-engineered buildings rather than through any natural features of the pandemic itself.

"And that gives a very clear route now to opening up the economy safely, to opening buildings, to having the reassurance in schools and restaurants and hotels that the building is safe, because it's measurable."

Dr Kim Roberts, a virologist at Trinity College Dublin, also told the programme that for viruses, "increasing ventilation, increasing the changeover rate of air within a room, can reduce transmission".

She said short-range respiratory droplets are still considered the main factor in the spread of Covid-19, but added: "If we can add ventilation to our toolbox of ways of reducing transmission then we have another way that we can tackle transmission and reduce it."

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