Organisations are being called upon to do more to make their premises COVID-safe according to research from facilities services provider phs Group The new phs Index report was the result of a collaboration between phs air quality experts and a leading Cambridge University professor that examined the airborne risk of coronavirus indoors; a risk they suggest is not being taken seriously enough in the fight against infection.
Fluid mechanics expert Professor Paul Linden, of Cambridge University, commented:
“Indoor air quality is a real concern in the spread of coronavirus. Much of the focus on COVID-19 has been the transmission by physical touch and larger droplets expelled when an infected person breathes, talks and coughs but what we’re not talking about enough is the smaller infected droplets and particles which remain airborne and are not contained by masks.
“Growing evidence indicates these infected aerosols linger in the air for hours at a time and can be spread around a building – even after an infected person has left creating an extended risk of transmission. During the winter, we’re more likely to be spending time indoors with less natural ventilation, meaning the air we breathe could be more concentrated with particulates. If we fail to combat the risk of airborne infection, we risk being exposed by a large gap in our defences. Improving indoor air quality must be at the forefront if we truly want to create COVID-safe environments.”
phs’ independently-commissioned research found nearly half of consumers (46 per cent) say that the closing down of venues such as pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential retail makes them feel they are not COVID safe. Even more, 51 per cent, say they actively avoid indoor settings as they didn’t want to risk catching COVID-19 and more than one in 10 (13 per cent) have even walked out of premises because they didn’t feel comfortable. After public transport, the most avoided indoor settings are restaurants, cafes and pubs (avoided by 42 per cent of consumers) while more than a third have avoided leisure centres, gyms and dentists (38 per cent, 37 per cent and 36 per cent respectively). Potentially worryingly, 34 per cent say they have avoided visiting the dentist with 29 per cent avoiding hospitals and GP surgeries. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) have avoided shops and 16 per cent have avoided their workplace.
The change in consumer behaviour is driven by the risk of infection with 68 per cent of consumers saying they are concerned about catching COVID-19 in indoor environments with significant fears over the containment measures. More than a quarter (29 per cent) of consumers say they are not confident in the hygiene measures within local businesses while a third (34 per cent) lack confidence in their social distancing practices.
David Taylor-Smith, CEO of phs Group, said: “The research demonstrates the extent of concern consumers feel about spending time indoors and the risk of catching COVID-19, so much so they are actively avoiding certain indoor premises and want organisations to do more to make them feel safer and combat the spread. While this is vital from a health perspective, as an economy it is also essential organisations take the right measures to stay open wherever they can and welcome staff, visitors and customers into their premises safely. They need to bolster public confidence and reassure people they are doing everything possible to be COVID safe.
“We’ve all heard the message of ‘hands, face and space’ and these are important aspects in infection control combated by hand washing, masks and social distancing. But what about the air we breathe? Scientists worldwide are pointing to the airborne risk of contamination and this urgently needs addressing to enable people to spend time in indoor settings more safely. Organisations using air purifiers are already converts in providing cleaner, fresher, healthier air and proving to their building users that they are taking the risks seriously for now and for the future. It is a difficult time for businesses right now. With so many premises hit again by closure, there are enough reasons for consumers to keep away, fears organisations are not doing enough to reduce the risk should not be one of them.”
For the full phs Index and indoor air quality report, visit www.phs.co.uk/phsIndex