Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (526, 528)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

526. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the advice he has taken regarding the issue of ventilation of indoor commercial spaces and the spread of Covid-19; if he will seek such advice with a view to engaging with various sectors, given that it is now known this virus is airborne and is likely to be in circulation for some time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2450/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

528. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if he has sought advice from NPHET on the issue of ventilation given that Covid-19 is now understood to be airborne; the reason specific strategies such as the installation of CO2 sensors and advice on good ventilation are not part of the routine advice to households and commercial establishments; and if he has not sought this advice, if he will do so. [2454/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 526 and 528 together.

The NPHET keeps all issues in relation to COVID-19 under review, including modes of transmission and the role that ventilation can play in mitigating transmission. These matters were discussed most recently at its meeting of 14th January.

COVID-19 is a new disease, and the effect of ventilation on the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is still unclear, however there is evidence that COVID-19 outbreaks are more commonly associated with crowded indoor spaces, and that poor ventilation may increase the risk of transmission in such settings.

There is already a range of advice and guidance in place in relation to ventilation. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published Guidance on Non-Healthcare Building Ventilation during COVID-19 which provides an analysis of the current literature examining the association between ventilation and COVID-19. The Guidance provides recommendations, based on the literature, for commercial and public buildings, including with regard to mechanical ventilation. It also includes school specific guidance which recommends the use of indoor air quality meters which monitor the level of CO2 in classrooms that rely on natural ventilation. This guidance can be found at the following link:

https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/educationguidance/Guidance%20on%20non%20HCbuilding%20ventilation%20during%20COVID-19.pdf

The HPSC is currently reviewing this guidance based on a recent HIQA rapid review of current public health guidance for community settings for COVID-19 and recent updates in similar international guidance, and it is expected that the updated guidance will be published soon.

Additional guidance on ventilation in commercial spaces is available in the Work Safely Protocol (https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Work-Safely-Protocol.pdf) and in NSAI guidance for the retail sector and shopping centres:

https://www.nsai.ie/images/uploads/general/NSAI-COVID19-Retail-Guidelines-13012021.pdf

https://www.nsai.ie/images/uploads/general/NSAI-COVID19-Shopping-Centre-Guidelines-13012021.pdf

There is also additional guidance on Gov.ie and on the HSE website which outlines the importance of ventilation in households, this can be found here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/472f64-covid-19-coronavirus-guidance-and-advice/

https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/how-coronavirus-is-spread.html