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Public health experts warn of bleak winter for staff and students in unventilated classrooms

Teacher in front of whiteboard with students

Infection prevention experts are warning school pupils face significant disruption to their studies this autumn because of the risk of Covid-19 and flu spreading in old, poorly ventilated classrooms. The UK will likely face new Covid-19 waves in the next eight months that may see cases rise above numbers seen in the pandemic so far, making ventilation more vital than ever to reduce the risk of spread of infections in classrooms.

These concerns come as a new poll of more than 3,000 Britons, conducted by Deltapoll on behalf of infection prevention specialist GAMA Healthcare, shows four in five (80%) Brits overwhelmingly associate good ventilation indoors with preventing infection.

In May 2021, the Department for Education released a report on the condition of school buildings and found that £11.4bn in remedial work is required across the English school estate. However, public health experts fear these repairs will not include classroom ventilation, with the risk of students and teachers picking up Covid-19 or facing another winter of wearing coats during lessons as windows are opened to limit infections.

Experts from GAMA Healthcare have cautioned that if children are to be protected from Covid-19 and other infectious diseases this Autumn, good ventilation will be imperative. UK professors have also warned of a likely surge in cases of respiratory infections such as flu this autumn and winter, with levels suppressed for the last two years because of the pandemic and Australia already seeing record flu cases.

Dr Phillip Norville, Clinical and Scientific Director at GAMA Healthcare, said:

“We should be concerned about how prepared schools are this autumn and winter. There’s potential for us to see more students getting ill with respiratory infections as they return to classrooms. That includes COVID, but also flu that’s been supressed for two years due to public health measures during the pandemic. Its important people make sure homes schools, and workplaces are properly ventilated to reduce that risk and protect their health by using mechanical air filtration and natural ventilation.

“It’s reassuring to see Brits recognising the importance of properly ventilating indoor spaces to reduce the risk of infection. Schools need support to take action if we’re going to avoid disruptive absences or a repeat of last year, when staff and students had to keep windows open and coats on in the classroom.”

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