Public ‘cautiously optimistic’ about return to office work

by Gazette Reporter

There is a cautious optimism among Irish people ahead of the easing of restrictions next month including return to office work, according to a latest survey.

The research conducted by Novaerus at McGreals, distributors of the Irish-made Novaerus air disinfection devices, reveals “cautious optimism” ahead of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions next month, with more than 40 per cent of respondents saying they now feel safe from transmission of the virus.

The survey, which examined people’s ‘comfort levels’ around the possibility of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 this autumn/winter, also highlights a disparity in attitudes towards indoor settings versus public environments. And, while an overall 41% of respondents say they now feel safe, 15% still feel ‘quite’ to ‘extremely’ unsafe, depending on the context.

In relation to the possibility of contracting or transmitting the virus, the Novaerus at McGreals research found that:

·        Public transport (which returned to full capacity this month) is where people are most uneasy, with 70 per cent of respondents saying that is where they feel most likely to contract/transmit COVID-19

·        Hospitality and entertainment settings follow in second position, with 66% saying they are concerned about returning to pubs, restaurants, concerts

·        Healthcare environments are in third position, with 62% expressing concern

·        Sports events are in fourth position, with 60% uneasy about returning

·        In joint fifth position are workplace environments and educational settings (schools, colleges) with 54% concerned

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With vaccination levels in Ireland among the highest anywhere in the EU, the Government’s announcement of a full easing of restrictions by 22 October has been broadly welcomed. When it comes to returning to indoor settings such as hospitality, public transport, and retail environments, however, optimism is mixed with caution as most Irish people want to see a retention of the health and safety protocols, we have all become used to. 

In the context of indoor public settings, the Novaerus at McGreals research asked respondents which safety measures are most important to them, with results largely reflecting public health messaging to date:

  • 26% want to see all staff/public continuing to wear masks when moving around the venue
  • 24% want to see the EU Digital Cert / COVID-19 vaccine pass used for indoor access 
  • 15% want to see strict social distancing measures implemented
  • 8% want to see regular handwashing among staff/public
  • 7% want to see technology used that disinfects the air / inactivates the virus at DNA level
  • 6% want to see doors and windows left open
  • 5% want to see staff/public practising good respiratory hygiene (e.g., coughing into elbow)
  • 4% want to see rapid antigen testing for access
  • 1% want to see use of CO2 monitors

Airborne transmission: not enough being done?

Global research has homed in on airborne transmission as the primary source of COVID-19 infection and a far greater risk than via surface infection. The danger of airborne or ‘aerosol’ transmission has in turn put the spotlight on the need to protect our indoor air, with technology the best way to keep people safe.

In this respect, the survey showed a very high level of awareness of the dangers of airborne transmission, with 80% of respondents agreeing that COVID-19 is “predominantly an airborne virus transmitted from one person to another through the air”. 

However, with Government guidelines still prioritising ventilation, most Irish people now feel not enough is being done to safeguard indoor air. 59% of survey respondents believe that keeping windows and doors open is not enough to ventilate a space efficiently, while 76% of respondents say they would feel much safer in a venue that uses technology to safely disinfect the air and deactivate the virus. 

Deirdre Devitt, Immediate Past President LVA. Iain White Photography.

Ahead of International Day of Clean Air tomorrow, Deirdre Devitt, CEO of Novaerus at McGreals, says that indoor air quality will be a critical issue as we head towards winter. “It’s clear from our research that most Irish people now have serious reservations about the quality of air they are breathing indoors and that is both good news and a wake-up call,” she said. 

“Ventilation alone will not keep people safe indoors because of the miniscule size of the virus and the huge volume of viral particles that can amass in classrooms, offices and other indoor settings,” Ms Devitt said. “Similarly, even the best hospital-grade HEPA or MERV filters on their own cannot trap or remove all COVID-19 viral particles as they are so tiny.”

“While ventilation and CO2 monitors can help, they must be supported by a science-led approach to managing people and the indoor air they are breathing,” she said. “That means pro-actively treating indoor air with technology that has been independently proven to eliminate all viruses and micro-organisms, with no harmful by-products.” 

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