Hundreds of scientists from more than 30 different countries already raised the alarm in early July this year; the corona virus mainly spreads via small air particles in indoor spaces. They warned that if current policies are not adapted to this type of virus, a new wave of infections would ensue. This fear is now true; after reopening schools, workplaces and gyms, COVID-19 is spreading exponentially again. The consequence? Tightened measures and a partial lockdown. Will we stay in this negative circle in the coming years, or is there a way to break it?
Despite the tightened measures, the number of infections continues to increase every day. Hundreds of scientists, including virologists, indoor environmental experts and epidemiologists, wrote a open fire letter indicated to the World Health Organization (WHO) that the coronavirus falls under the category 'airborne diseases ', a virus that spreads through air particles. Washing hands and keeping a distance of 1.5 meters certainly does no harm, but as a fight against a virus that enters through the respiratory tract, this does not address the root cause of the problem.
Scientists distinguish three virus types; "Opportunists", "Survivors" and "Flyers"
At the beginning of October a interview with doctor, epidemiologist and emeritus professor Menno Jan Bouma the term 'virus' explained extensively . According to Bouma, viruses can be divided into three different main groups depending on the way they travel and enter a body.
- ''Opportunists'' (such as AIDS) are transmitted through damage such as a wound or a blood transfusion. Insect bites can also transmit this type of virus.
- "Survivors" (such as stomach flu) follow the path of food. These virus particles are resistant to acidic gastric juices and reproduce in the intestines. Spread takes place through faeces; if an old host does not wash its hands after a toilet visit, the virus particles can be transferred to a new host by shaking hands or via surfaces. If the hands of the new host come into contact with the mouth or nose, the virus can get into the stomach and intestines.
- "Flyers" (such as flu viruses) hitch a ride on tiny droplets that the infected person lets out through the mouth or nose. We call these air particles aerosols. Talking, singing, exhaling, and coughing can all create aerosols that can infect other people. Packed as a tiny droplet, this type of virus then tries to hitchhike to the alveoli of a new host. Because the lung wall is only one cell layer thick, much less virus particles are needed to make someone sick. Contamination via hands or surfaces is rare with this virus type, because the chance is very small that the virus particles end up in the lungs via this route.
Scientists and experts already mentioned it in the urgent letter, but Menno Jan Bouma also confirms it again in the interview;
The coronavirus falls under the "Flyers" category, a virus that hitches a ride on tiny air particles and can infect new hosts when inhaled .
Corona is a "Flyer" and should be treated this way
Each virus type has an "ideal" environment in which it can survive, spread itself and then multiply. In viruses that use aerosols, such as influenza viruses and the corona virus, important factors for the living environment are the temperature and the humidity.
A cool, dry indoor air without supply of fresh air is a "mecca" for Flyers according to Menno Jan Bouma. For example, a large number of corona cases have been reported worldwide in the meat processing industry, but also at many other companies that use cooled, dry air.
In the United States, researchers have now come to the conclusion that the outbreak has gotten so out of control by so-called " Superspreading Events '. These are large-scale activities involving hundreds of people, where a single person can cause many individuals to become infected. Examples include conferences, funerals, and church gatherings. All these activities have the same thing in common; a large number of people in a small space with poor or limited ventilation options, i.e. the ideal distribution environment for a Flyer.
A good comparison for the spread of this virus type is cigarette smoke; if you smoke indoors with all windows open, the air will disappear after a few minutes. But is there not good ventilation? Then that same scent can linger in the room for days.
Epidemiologists and virologists indicate that measures such as hand washing, disinfection, no shaking hands and no cuddling are hardly effective when you want to tackle Flyers such as flu viruses or corona. They are especially effective against Survivors; the virus type that spreads through faeces and surfaces. This does not mean that these current measures cannot help to stop the spread, but that there are more effective ways to tackle the coronavirus.
Several scientists, including the hundreds of undersigned to the early July letter of fire, point out to the government that the solution is to provide good ventilation of indoor spaces.
Current lockdown is not consistent with a long-term approach to corona
The tightened measures recently announced by the Cabinet in the press conference are mainly focused on reducing the number of contact moments. For example, the entire hospitality sector will close again, working from home is again recommended and there is an urgent recommendation to travel only when it is really necessary. Indoor sports as a team will be discontinued and professional sports may only be practiced without an audience. There is also an urgent advice to wear masks, a measure that epidemiologists such as Menno Jan Bouma indicate that this can indeed help to reduce the spread.
Theoretically, these are all measures that can indeed reduce the number of contact moments, and therefore also the possibility of dissemination. But if we look at what scientists explain about the way the coronavirus is spreading, this does not address the root cause of the problem. The chance of contamination via aerosols in indoor areas remains the same.
The current measures will temporarily slow down the spread, but will not ensure that we get out of this negative circle of lockdowns. When the number of positive tested people decreases and it is again decided that the Netherlands can leave the temporary lockdown , the number of contact moments will increase again, contamination in poorly ventilated indoor spaces will increase exponentially and the Netherlands will again end up in the same negative circle. We also saw this phenomenon after the relaxation of the measures at the beginning of July; within weeks there was an extreme growth in the number of positively tested persons. In short, after all catering and indoor sports have opened, distribution will again result in a third wave in the same way. The reason for this is that the Cabinet is trying to regulate the spread of the virus based on contact moments among people, but does not look at environmental factors that cause the coronavirus to spread faster or less quickly.
Scientists point us in the right way to break the "Lockdown" circle
Multiple studies from around the world show that the virus can spread easily in dry, cool indoor areas with a lack of ventilation. Indoor environmental experts are concerned for the coming months; people keep the windows closed because of the cold outside, making the air indoors drier. This lack of ventilation actually encourages the virus. Prime Minister Rutte also confirms this in the press conference with the fact that "most infections take place behind the front door" and that a maximum group size will be set indoors as a result. According to all researchers, this is indeed the correct observation, but with the wrong measure as a conclusion to fight the corona virus in the long term.
Limiting the maximum number of people in a room will of course help, but what if we don't base the measures on the number of people and instead focus on making the space itself safer?
After all, all scientific studies show that proper ventilation, air purification and keeping rooms moist disrupts the 'ideal' living environment for the virus, making it less likely to spread. The key to combating the virus in the long term, according to scientists, therefore lies in making indoor spaces and buildings safer through better ventilation and air purification. Changing the aerosols in a room ensures that virus particles cannot reach a new host, which means that infections can be contained or even prevented.
Maurice de Hond pulls in an debate with Ab Osterhaus on October 26 on NPO1 the same conclusion: a new lockdown would have serious consequences for the economy and society as a whole, but our goal of getting rid of the virus is not being achieved. The winter months are a favorable time for the virus to spread, so only with the help of ventilation and air cleaning can we ultimately stop the spread.
Countries worldwide are opting for the science-based approach
Signs that there is support to prevent the spread of the corona virus by means of ventilation and air purification are gradually becoming visible in several countries, including the Netherlands. For example, in early October, the National Government announced in an news article indicates that the Cabinet will make 360 million available to provide safe classrooms for schools that do not meet the minimum ventilation standards. In this news item, the Dutch government refers to spread via "droplet infection" and the importance of good ventilation to prevent the spread of the corona virus.
Also in New York, the first seat of the coronavirus in the United States, it has been announced that under the guidance of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization), 10,000 mobile air purifiers will be installed in education, under the quote: “the science is clear: well-ventilated building are safer buildings”.
Finally, our eastern neighbors have also supported ventilation and air cleaning .; For example, Chancellor Angela Merkel gives in her press conference on Sept. 29 indicates that the federal government will launch a funding program to improve ventilation in public buildings as a virus protection. Schools and homes will also fall within the scope of this large-scale program.
These gigantic investments based on scientific research show that a combination of ventilation and air cleaning is the key to halting the pandemic. Not only the corona virus, but also other pilots have a hard time contaminating new hosts via aerosols in a well-ventilated, purified space.
Join us in the fight against the corona virus and prevent another lockdown
AirExchange®'s mission is to help Dutch society out of this negative circle of lockdowns by making every interior space a safe place. With our specially developed filter combination of a HEPA filter, ionizer and a UV-C lamp, we fight the corona virus and ensure that an interior space is actively purified from harmful aerosols.
AirExchange® tries to broaden the support for air cleaning in society, by creating more awareness that good air quality in all indoor spaces is the best way to effectively combat the corona virus in the long term. We do this in the education sector in collaboration with our partner Delta Plan Ventilation Education , and by offering the air purifiers in our webshop, so that we can also use it in office spaces, sports halls and treatment rooms can fight COVID-19.
Epidemiologists and indoor environmental experts expect that in the months of November to April we will have an increased risk of spreading the virus via aerosols in indoor spaces. If we want to protect the vulnerable in society and prevent a new lockdown, it is necessary to make indoor spaces safer with the help of ventilation and air cleaning.
Read here more about the AirExchange® air cleaning systems.