AS pupils and students are set to return for the new autumn term, the Welsh Government has announced a new investment in technology to improve air quality and quickly disinfect classrooms, lecture theatres and workshops.
Funding for more than 1,800 ozone disinfecting machines and over 30,000 CO2 sensors will be provided for schools, colleges and universities throughout Wales.
Ozone disinfecting machines
£3.31m will be provided for new ozone disinfecting machines, to reduce cleaning times, improve disinfection and reduce costs. The funding is expected to supply more than 1,800 machines, at least one for every school, college and university in Wales.
The time and cost of cleaning rooms was identified as an issue for schools and colleges early in the pandemic.
To address the issue, the Welsh Government asked Swansea University to establish an Ozone Classroom Decontamination Project, backed by Welsh Government funding. Scientists at the university have developed an Ozone disinfecting machine, now in production, which can be deployed for this task.
The machines can be used to quickly disinfect classrooms when clusters of Covid-19 or other communicable viruses are identified, such as norovirus.
CO2 ‘traffic light’ monitors
£2.58 m will be provided for over 30,000 CO2 ‘traffic light’ monitors, for teaching and learning spaces such as classrooms, seminar rooms or lecture halls.
CO2 monitors include sensors which provide a visual signal of deteriorating internal air quality. The monitors will alert teachers and lecturers when CO2 levels rise, notifying them when air quality needs to improve, thereby aiding the control of ventilation during the winter. This will help maintain comfortable temperatures for learners and staff during colder periods, reduce heat loss and save on energy costs.
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said:
“I’m pleased learners can return to classrooms and lecture theatres this autumn with fewer restrictions in place than there have been for several months.
“This investment in CO2 monitors will help improve air quality, while the disinfecting machines will enable classrooms to return to normal use quicker. This supports our common goal of ensuring learners can continue learning together with their teachers and friends.
“But we must keep our guard up against Covid-19. These measures will complement, rather than replace our current advice – which includes ensuring hygiene is maintained, and washing hands thoroughly and more often than usual.
Dr Chedly Tizaoui of Swansea University, part of the team who designed the ozone disinfection machine, said:
“I am delighted that the ozone technology we developed at Swansea University will support efforts to eradicate Covid-19 in Wales. Reducing the spread of coronavirus in our educational institutions is vitally important, so our children and students can get back to the classroom.
“Ozone is potent against Covid-19 virus and due to its gaseous nature, it kills the virus whether be it airborne or adhered to a surface. Thanks to the support received from the Welsh Government and the Active Buildings pioneered by SPECIFIC, our research demonstrated that buildings can be Active on the inside and the ozone treatment developed here can be incorporated to support cleaning and disinfection of public buildings.”
Rebecca Evans, the Minister for Finance and Local Government, said:
“By investing in new technology such as ozone disinfecting machines, we’re ensuring learners can stay in their school and colleges as Wales moves beyond the pandemic.”
Editorial: Given the rise in the number of cases of children and adults with asthma, which some claim is linked to pollution from vehicles this initiative should go hand in hand with an all round assessment and solution to a growing health problem in Wales, which takes into account the views and evidence of campaign groups and a possible establishment of an independent scientific monitoring unit. There also has to be some form of regulation on developers who appear to be building more and more homes devoid of green space and trees in order to offset the impact of more families with more cars in already crowded urban areas.