Staying Covid-safe at Christmas: UCC experts publish new guide

Staying Covid-safe at Christmas: UCC experts publish new guide

Researchers have produced a guide providing information and advice on how to stay safe in the home this Christmas, particularly in relation to the importance of ventilation.

A University of College (UCC) professor has highlighted the importance of ventilating the home over the Christmas season as more people are allowed to gather indoors under Level 3 restrictions.

Under current restrictions, visitors from a total of three different households are permitted to gather at one household from December 18 with additional guidelines in place such as meeting outdoors where possible, frequent hand washing and mask wearing in the presence of vulnerable individuals.

Professor John Wenger, Director of the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC) at UCC said that research recently carried out by UCC “clearly shows that ventilation plays a very important role in preventing the spread of Covid-19”.

Researchers produced a guide providing information and advice on how to stay safe in the home this Christmas, particularly in relation to the importance of ventilation.

Some of the key tips in the guide include the use of a CO2 sensor to monitor the ventilation in a room; opening windows and doors; and maintaining distance from people outside your household or support bubble at the Christmas dinner table.

The Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at University College Cork (UCC) has produced a guide to show the importance of ventilation at home this Christmas. Image: University College Cork
The Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at University College Cork (UCC) has produced a guide to show the importance of ventilation at home this Christmas. Image: University College Cork

Speaking to The Echo, Professor Wenger explained why the concept of airborne transmission is important to know ahead of visiting family or friends over the Christmas period.

“The virus is spread mainly through the air and it’s admitted by a person when they’re talking, singing, coughing or sneezing. The virus is contained in little respiratory droplets or particles that come out of the mouth and they move through the air.

“There are plenty of particles that are small enough that remain in the air and can move around the room. It’s just like cigarette smoking. Think of the virus acting the same way as cigarette smoke, so if you're inside with the doors and windows closed, it could be a bit like having someone in the room who is smoking.

“The smoke fills the room, and the virus can fill a room too. If there’s no ventilation, the amount of the virus in the air can increase and people that are breathing the virus in are exposed more and have a greater chance of catching it.

“So just as you would to dilute cigarette smoking air, you open the doors and the windows, you ventilate and that also works for diluting the virus, and fresh air cleans the virus out of the room.

“The worry here is that if there is an infected person, if one of the group has met up with a different household or different people and unknowingly they might have the virus because there's so many asymptomatic people, and they could be spreading the virus so we need to take precaution because the problem is that in an environment like this, people are more relaxed,” he said.

Professor Wenger said that breaking up the day with an outdoor walk, moving from one room to another, or opening doors and windows to ventilate a room fully for 15 minutes “would give the virus a chance to clear away” and advised against staying in one room for hours on end.

“We just have to be sensible about this. It’s a Christmas like no other for sure, but just think about all the effort that has gone into getting to where we are.

"We have the lowest cases in Europe at the moment and we are doing well but things are going to be relaxed over the next couple of weeks and there’s going to be more Covid around because of that so it’s important for people to know some of this information,” he said.

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