A leading Covid expert has called for ventilation certificates to be introduced in all workplaces here.
Professor Gabriel Scally’s comments come as pubs, restaurants and cafes reopened on Monday for indoor hospitality.
Dr Scally, a member of Sage’s independent pandemic advisory committee, said ventilation standards required in indoor environments where people work “should be very clear” and be based on up-to-date knowledge of the virus.
“They should be legally enforceable and there should be active inspection. Licenses should depend on their ventilation meeting the required standards,” he said.
Dr Scally added that it was essential that reception places be considered as workplaces because “it is the workers in these places who will be at risk for the longest period”.
He also said it had to be monitored, “especially for places that need a permit and already need to be inspected.”
New research shows that opening windows would significantly reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in indoor workplaces, especially those dealing with the public.
Health experts and scientists believe that a ventilation certificate would allow establishments to quickly regain the trust of customers, as well as employees returning with confidence to other closed buildings such as offices and shops.
At present, it is believed that one in 980 in the bar population is infected with the virus.
“People tend to be seated face to face, around or across tables,” Professor Scally said.
“Alcohol makes people more talkative and conversations increase in volume. There can be laughter and fun – that’s why we go to these places.
“Unfortunately, it just generates more virus transmission in the air if someone is infected and the ventilation problem then becomes extremely important.”
Meanwhile, Dr Alan Stout, chairman of the Northern Ireland BMA GP committee, said most interior areas will have already completed risk assessments on adequate airflow and ventilation.
But he added, “There has to be some sort of control of indoor facilities as well, to make sure that’s the case.”
The architects were also told that in the post-pandemic era, buildings should be designed with ventilation high on the priority list, which is not always the case in countries with mild climates.
Dr Stout added that the reopening of inner hospitality here “shows that we are in a good position, both in terms of the number of infections and, most importantly, in terms of vaccinating people, but it will still take that it is a managed environment ”. He said discipline around face covers would be critical to the success of getting people back indoors.
“When you sit at a table with other people, you eat and drink, so you won’t have a mask,” he says.
“But when you get up to move, wearing one will be very important. This is where you protect and prevent the spread of everyone in that environment. “
The Economy Ministry, which produced ventilation guidelines, was asked to confirm who is responsible for ensuring them and applying them in the workplace. A response had not been received at the time of going to press.