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Improving indoor air conditions is key to reducing future COVID-19 infections

Researchers say better ventilation can help consumers stay healthy

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The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to nationwide shutdowns, and according to a new study, exploring opportunities to promote better health practices in indoor spaces could be key for the future. 

Because a vaccine is still in the works and stay-at-home orders are beginning to ease up across the country, researchers from the University of Surrey say it’s important to take necessary precautions to ensure that the rate of infection doesn’t skyrocket once again. They explained that improving ventilation indoors could be crucial for reducing the risk of infection. 

“As the curve flattens in many countries across the world and cross-country measures including international border control remain important, it remains vital to protect people from this novel virus inside built environments and public places within our cities,” the researchers wrote. “Individuals can also make a notable difference by informed decision-making, which is only possible when people are kept up to date with the evolving knowledge base around transmission pathways.” 

A three-pronged approach

To help combat the spread of COVID-19 in indoor buildings, the researchers proposed a plan that would place the largest emphasis on governments, built spaces, and the public. 

They explained that the government’s role is important because they have a direct line to consumers and can help create best practices for both businesses and consumers. Indoor buildings are the second target, as ventilation can be improved in many of these areas to ensure that germs aren’t clustered and clean air is being circulated. Lastly, consumers themselves can take steps to protect themselves when out in public by wearing masks and keeping their distance from others. 

The researchers emphasized how important ventilation is in the spread of COVID-19. They explained that though the germ-carrying droplets are tiny, when air isn’t properly circulating, the virus can cluster in the air and keep building up. This leaves consumers exposed and at risk of contracting the infection. 

Recent studies have shown how closed environments like buses and conference rooms, which have recirculated air, are hotspots for the spread of COVID-19. This makes it all the more important for buildings to reevaluate their ventilation options, as creating the greatest clean air flow can help keep consumers safe and healthy over the long term. 

“These past months, living through the COVID-19 crisis, has been truly unprecedented, but we must turn this global tragedy into an opportunity to better prepare for similar threats,” said researcher Prashant Kumar. “An improved indoor ventilation is an important step that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection. However, more must be done to recognise and understand airborne transmission of COVID-19 and similar viruses, to minimise the build-up of virus-laden air in places typically containing high densities of people.”  

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