The ventilation “revolution” coming to Australia could reduce the need for stay-at-home orders, prevent widespread COVID-19 infection and boost the economy by billions of dollars by stamping out the common cold and flu.
Australia’s building standards would be overhauled to stem the spread of COVID-19 and employers could be sued if poorly ventilated workplaces led to outbreaks, under changes some say could be as important as vaccination in the battle against the virus.
State governments, employers and unions are in negotiations on a legally enforceable code of practice that would force employers to protect workers from airborne transmission of COVID-19 Former Victorian premier Ted Baillieu says ventilation is “as important as vaccination.”
The Sunday Age has also learnt that the federal body that sets building laws is moving to create rules that would ensure new buildings have ventilation and filtration features that minimise indoor circulation of pathogens.
Buildings including restaurants, schools, homes, apartment buildings and offices continue to be the highest-risk locations for disease spread, and many Victorian classrooms — the site for several recent outbreaks — have air quality 2% times worse than recommended.
But ventilation is rarely mentioned by politicians and government officials, and most of the public remain in the dark about simple steps to check and
improve air quality to prevent outbreaks.
The world is moving ahead of Australia. Asian nations that successfully managed COVID-19 were alive to the importance of ventilation early in the pandemic, while European nations such as Belgium and Ireland are passing laws mandating businesses to provide clean air. US President Joe Biden’s $130 billion schools package includes funding to ventilate schools and keep them open.
A US Centres for Disease Control study from May found proper ventilation was more effective at reducing COVID-19 spread in schools than mask wearing.
Burnet Institute director Professor Brendan Crabb said ventilation was the “missing link” that could speed up Australia’s path to a position when lockdowns weren’t necessary.
“Dealing with airborne spread has been the biggest failure in Australia’s response,” he said.
Former Victorian Liberal premier Ted Baillieu, a trained architect who has been pressuring governments behind the scenes to address air quality, called for a national ventilation taskforce to co ordinate urgent policy change.
“In managing transmission, this is as important as vaccination,” he said.
Paradigm shift to avoid lockdowns Health agencies like the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Australia’s infection-control body were slow to acknowledge that COVID-19 spread through the air, but there is now widespread acceptance of its crucial role.
A century-old theory that respiratory illnesses chiefly spread via droplets, caused by things like sneezing on someone from a close distance,
prompted authorities to initially focus on close contact and physical distancing. Many public health agencies stubbornly stuck to this interpretation.
13 Jan 2021
13 Jan 2021
13 Jan 2021