Fresh air against coronavirus: the underestimated weapon that can reduce the risk of contagion

Aire fresco contra el coronavirus: el arma subestimada que puede reducir el riesgo de contagio

For one doctor, the very idea of ​​people keeping their windows closed “makes his head explode with anger.”

For his part, a prominent engineer says he embarrasses his family in restaurants when he tries to get him into fresh air.

Both are part of a growing group of experts concerned about how the coronavirus can accumulate in rooms. poorly ventilated.

Its message is that authorities must emphasize the importance of outside air.

What is the problem?

According to doctor Eilir Hughes, who runs a healthcare facility in North Wales, the UK government’s slogan “Hands, space, face” it doesn’t have enough range.

The slogan appears on the lectern Prime Minister Boris Johnson uses in briefings, giving it massive prominence.

Experts say that ventilation is just as important as hand washing, distancing, and wearing masks.

But Hughes, who has become known as “Dr. Fresh air” for your campaign on the subject, you think you should say “Hands, space, face, replace.”

Hughes says that replacing the stale air in a room with fresh air from outside can reduce enormously the chances of people getting infected.

Dr. Hughes says his message has attracted attention.

“I tell people: ‘Give yourself fresh air this Christmas.’

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What does science say?

At the beginning of the pandemic, authorities focused on what were assumed to be the most likely routes of infection.

One is the risk of touching a contaminated surfaceHence the recommendation to wash your hands frequently.

Social distance

Social distancing alone is not a guarantee of protection.

The other is receiving drops that are produced when someone close coughs or sneezes, which led to the two-meter rule of social distancing and the use of masks.

But the possibility of a third route of transmission, through tiny virus particles known as aerosol sprays that remain in the air, is now also widely accepted.

This route of contagion was recognized by UK government advisers earlier this year and later by the World Health Organization.

US authorities have even gone further, saying inhalation of droplets and aerosols is believed to “be the main route of spread of the virus ”.

Faced with this risk, hand washing, social distancing and the use of masks they are not a guarantee of protection.

Graph of covid transmission by droplets or air


Do open windows really make a difference?

Shaun Fitzgerald, professor at the Royal Academy of Engineering at Cambridge University, is convinced that it is, and has made it a personal mission improve ventilation whenever I can.

That includes trying open windows that have been sealed or have not been maintained for years.

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“I refuse to be in a place that is not well ventilated,” he says.

According to Dr. Fitzgerald, research shows that a good supply of fresh air to dilute and disperse the virus can reduce the risk of infection between 70% and 80%.

Fitzgerald supports the messages about hand washing, social distancing and face covering, but says fresh air “is always fourth on the list, or often not there.”

Graphic on ventilation in the gathering of people at parties


“My biggest concern is that with the new strain of virus we know that keeping aerosols at a low level will be even more important and that means keeping places adequately ventilated ”, says the expert.

What are the dangers?

Fitzgerald points to recent research at a restaurant in South Korea that highlighted the extent to which the virus can spread indoors.

With the help of contact tracing and cameras, the scientists were able to establish how one diner was able to infect two others even though one was more than four meters away and the other more than 20 feet away.

Even though the three of them were only in the same room for a few minutes, that was enough for the air conditioner to carry the virus to large distances.


Airborne droplets and aerosols can transmit the virus.

“Aerosols can travel many meters once they’re airborne, ”says Fitzgerald.

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“Two meters away do not give you security, the only thing that does is good ventilation. If they had opened the windows of that restaurant, that could well have changed things. “

Should we let the cold in?

Dr. Fitzgerald says it’s not about opening all the windows wide throughout the day, but about making sure there is enough opening for fresh air.


Bundling up well can make it easier to open windows in cold places.

And also bundle up better.

“I would recommend wearing a wool sweater rather than just a short-sleeved blouse.

“But that’s what we should be doing anyway, to save on heating bills and reduce our energy demand, as we all do our bit to combat the climate changeFitzgerald notes.

For his part, Dr. Hughes says that ventilating rooms for a few minutes several times a day will not cause a lot of heat to be lost and will keep people more secure.

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