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Covid-19: Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Virus Indoors

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By David Shukman
BBC News science editor

Good ventilation could be the key to avoiding coronavirus as winter approaches and people spend more time indoors.

For months we’ve been told to wash our hands and maintain social distancing to beat coronavirus.

But scientists and engineers say we also need to think about the air we breathe inside buildings.

Good ventilation matters in five ways.

1: If it’s stuffy, walk away

When you walk into a room and the air feels stale, something is wrong with the ventilation.

Not enough fresh air is being introduced, which increases your chances of getting infected by coronavirus.

Recent research shows that in confined spaces there can be “airborne transmission” of the virus – with tiny virus particles lingering in the air.

According to workplace regulations set up before the pandemic, everyone should get 10 litres of fresh air every second, and that matters more than ever now.

So if a place seems stuffy, just turn around and leave, says Dr Hywel Davies, technical director of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

He says that it’s vital to have a flow of clean air:

“If you’ve got someone who’s infected in a building, and you’re bringing in plenty of outside air, you’re diluting whatever infectious material they’re giving off. You’re reducing the risk of other people becoming infected.”

2: Look up at the air conditioning

From offices to shops, air conditioning is welcome on hot days – but check the type of unit.

The simplest is a slender white box mounted on walls or ceilings, known as a split air conditioner.

This draws in air from a room, chills it and then blows it back out again.
Split air conditionerimage copyrightAlamy
image captionA split air conditioner

In other words, it’s recirculating the air.

This is no problem for a quick visit but may be a risk over a period of hours.

A study of a restaurant in China blamed this type of air conditioner for spreading the virus.

One customer was “pre-symptomatic” – in other words, he was infected but did not realise because he had yet to develop symptoms.

Scientists reckon he released the virus as he breathed and talked, and it was pushed around the room by swirling air currents from the units on the wall.

The result was that nine other people became infected.

Dr Davies points again to the importance of fresh air:

“If there had been a good supply of outside air, very likely fewer people would have become infected – if any.”

3: Ask about the ‘fresh air ratio’

In a modern building where the windows are sealed, how can you get enough fresh air?

You’re relying on a ventilation system in which stale air is extracted from the rooms and piped to an air handling unit, often on the roof.
A rooftop air conditioning unitimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionA rooftop air conditioning unit

There, fresh air can be pulled in from outside and mixed with the old inside air, before being sent back into the building.

Given the risk of coronavirus infection, the professional advice is to maximise the fresh supply.

“Having 100% outside air or close to 100% is a good thing,” says Prof Cath Noakes of the University of Leeds and chair of the environmental panel of the government’s SAGE advisers, speaking in a personal capacity.

“The more fresh air, the less you’re running the risk of recirculating the virus through the building.”

The precise mix is decided by the building’s managers, who may be working for the owners or the tenants. .

The drawback to running 100% fresh air is the cost – the incoming air has to be heated in winter and cooled in summer, all of which requires energy.

4: Get the office management to check if there’s virus in the filters

A modern ventilation system will have filters but these are not fool-proof.

In the US, researchers investigating the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital found that traces of coronavirus were trapped by the filters but some had somehow slipped through.

Prof Kevin van den Wymelenberg, who led the project, believes that swabbing the filters could reveal if there’s someone infected working in a building.

In South Korea, a call centre on the 11th floor of an office building saw one person infect more than 90 others.

If the filters had been checked more frequently, the presence of the virus might have been spotted sooner.

Prof van den Wymelenberg says data from filters can “show us where to punch and when to punch” in tackling infections.

5: Watch out for draughts

Talk to any expert in the field and they will say that fresh air is the key.

But one specialist in modelling the movement of air says it’s not that simple.

Nick Wirth used to design Formula 1 racing cars, and now advises supermarkets and food-processing companies on how to manage air flow to keep people safe.
Office worker looking through windowimage copyrightGetty Images

He worries that if someone sitting beside an open window turns out to be infectious, they could shed virus to others downwind.

“If you open a window, where is the air going to go?” he asks. “We don’t want people in a direct line of that airflow.

“More fresh air in general is better but if it’s flowing horizontally and full of virus it could have unintended consequences.”

I put this scenario to Prof Cath Noakes.

She says the benefits of plentiful fresh air diluting the virus will outweigh any risks.

An open window might lead to more people receiving the virus but in smaller, less risky amounts, in her view.

It’s no surprise there are disagreements – there’s a lot we still don’t know about the virus.

But the air we breathe is bound to be part of any effort to make buildings safer.
(BBC news)

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Ebonyi Head of Service Position: Umahi Throws Application Open

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Against the usual practice of picking from the top echelon of the Civil Service,  Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi on Tuesday threw the position of Head of Service (HoS) of the state open, asking civil servants on Grade Level 14 and above to apply within two weeks.

Umahi, in a statement by the Commissioner of Information and State Orientation, Mr Uchenna Orji, said civil servants across the 13 LGAs of the state are qualified to apply within two weeks.

“The Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi requests applications from Civil Servants from Grade Level 14 and above to fill the vacancy of the Head Of Service (HOS), who shall be bowing out of Civil Service on 30th June 2021 after a meritorious and selfless service to the government and people of Ebonyi State,” the statement read in part.

The Governor further directed the civil servants to forward their applications to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG): “All applications are to be addressed to the Secretary to the State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, and submitted with all relevant credentials no later than 30th June, 2021.

Umahi added that “In replacing the outgoing Head of Service, the Government will be looking for the best for the State to continue the good work that the outgoing Head of Service began.

He applauded the loyalty, committed efforts and selfless service rendered by the out-going Head Of Service, Dr. Chamberlain Nwele, in the state and wished him well in his future endeavours.

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Federal High Court Issues New Practice Direction For Filing Of Processes As Workers Resume

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The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (FHC), Justice John Tsoho, has issued a new practice direction on exemption of payment of default fees for filing of processes.

The development, according to a statement by Catherine Oby-Nwandu, Chief Information Officer of FHC, on Friday night, followed the resumption of work after the two-month strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) was called off on on Wednesday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that JUSUN had, on April 6, shut down all courts nationwide to demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary at the state level.

Although the industrial action was called off on Wednesday, June 9, the workers union directed all its members to resume work on Monday, June 14.

Justice Tsoho, in the statement, therefore ordered that notwithstanding the provisions of Order 48 Rule 4 of the court rules, 2019, on computation of time for filling of court proceedings as provided by the Rules and payment of default fees for extension of time, the period covering the JUSUN strike action would be exempted.

The statement reads: “Following the resumption of work after the strike action by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) from 6th day of April, 2021 to 14th day of June 2021 which affected court proceedings and filling of processes, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Honorable Justice John Terhemba Tsoho, announces to Hon. Judges, stakeholders and the general public, the essential need for a new Practice Direction on EXEMPTION OF PAYMENT OF DEFAULT FEES FOR FILING OF PROCESSES computation of time for the payment of default fees for extension of time for filing processes in the Federal High Court of Nigeria for the above period.

“Pursuant to the powers conferred on him, he thereby issues the following Practice Directions:
“COMPUTATION of Time for filing of court processes and payment of default fees for extension of time;
“Notwithstanding the provisions of Order 48 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019 on computation of time for filling of court proceedings or doing an act as provided by the Rules and payment of default fees for extension of time thereof, the period covering the JUSUN strike action, being from 6th day of April, 2021 to 14th day of June, 2021, is hereby exempted.

“APPLICABILITY; These practice Directions shall, save to the extent or as may be otherwise directed by the Chief Judge, apply to both criminal and civil causes and matters in the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

“CITATION; These Practice Directions shall be cited as the Federal High Court (Exemption of Payment of Default Fees for Filing of Processes) Practice Directions (No. 2) 2021.

“The Practice Directions take effect from Tuesday, June 15, 2021.”(NAN)

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BUHARI REMOVES ARMSTRONG IDACHABA, REPLACES HIM WITH SHEHU ILELAH AS NBC DG.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, as the new director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the appointment in a statement made available to NAN in Abuja on Friday.

The statement said Ilelah’s appointment is for a tenure of five years in the first instance.

Ilelah

It added that Ilelah is a veteran broadcaster.

Ilelah takes over from the acting director-general of the agency, Armstrong Idachaba, who had been acting since the removal of Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, the esthwhile director-general who was removed over alleged corruption last year.

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