AN alternative to repeated lockdowns, in response to the pandemic, could lie in the promotion of ventilation and air filtration systems in homes and businesses, according to a West Clare member of Clare County Council.
Addressing the November council meeting, Councillor Cillian Murphy asked the authority to undertake a campaign and to contact other councils “to build awareness at a national level of the impact better indoor air quality has in reducing the spread of Covid-19”. His motion was seconded by Councillor Patrick O’Gorman.
Noting a written response from Senior Engineer Cyril Feeney saying that responsibility lay with the HSE, Councillor Murphy urged the authority to consider what it could do to promote the message.
“To-date the health promotion message had focused on social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing, but there is now an increasing understanding of air-borne transmission and proper ventilation of buildings,” the Fianna Fáil member said. “Clare County Council has been instrumental in delivering HSE recommendations and I am far from asking us to do a solo run. I am asking that the ventilation message be promoted. Yes, the HSE is the competent authority, but there are others including the council’s environmental health experts, architects and engineers.”
Councillor Murphy cited research and recommendations on ventilation from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDPC) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDE). He also referred to recent HSE guidelines stating that poor ventilation increased the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Councillor Donna McGettigan said that she wanted to be associated with the motion, noting that it was very difficult to have windows open at this time of year.
The cost of ventilation and air filtration was raised by Councillor Pat McMahon. “Many licensed premises are of old stock,” he noted. “This could create an extra cost for people already operating under a lot of pressure. This would have to be well thought out. Grants would have to be made available.”
The point was accepted by Councillor Murphy who said that the price was small compared to the cost of shutting down businesses. “We are looking at the prospect of locking down the country every five to six months,” he said. “That’s unsustainable economically and socially. It would be far most cost effective to upgrade ventilation. We’re not talking about massive, massive sums of money for offices, schools and pubs. Ironically, many pubs got rid of their ventilation systems when the smoking ban came in.”
“The moral of the story,” quipped Mayor of Clare Councillor Mary Howard, “is that if we get back to bars in December, we’ll need to bring our hat scarves and gloves and we’ll be toasty.”