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Is it time for a different approach in schools?

Navigating the Australian COVID safety landscape is complex and this is certainly true of our education system. There is no national approach to COVID safety in the classroom which makes it very difficult for parents to know if their governments are doing the best that is possible to protect the safety of their children when at school. 

The Lancet article Ten scientific reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 , indicates how room sizes, human interactions, ventilation and other variables can drive superspreading events.  According to The Conversation, poorly ventilated schools are a super-spreader event waiting to happen. Whilst opening windows to deliver fresh air and dilute and disperse airborne pathogens seems like a simple fix, in Australia most viral illnesses at school are transmitted in winter and cooler locations, when classrooms are likely to have windows shut to keep warmth in the room.  

It’s no wonder, that the NSW COVID-Smart Plan to keep schools open and students safe includes maximising natural and mechanical ventilation, with air purifiers dispatched to where they are needed. Rather than adopting this simple approach, the Victorian Governments Keeping Education Open and Safe in 2022 plan goes further, rolling out 51,000 air purification devices to government and low-fee non-government schools for the first day of Term 1. This, along with the commencement of shade sail construction underway at more than 300 of the 1800 schools that applied for a Shade Sail Grant to allow more classes to occur safely outdoors. COVID safety school plans vary widely across Australia including Queensland, which has chosen to delay students going back to the classroom to defend against COVID.

A reasonable question for all parents to ask is Why isn’t safe, effective and proven infection prevention and control technology being employed in our schools alongside masks, regular RAT’s and improving ventilation to slow the spread of the virus?

While Australian policy makers and governments appear slow to adopt new technologies, it is encouraging to see the younger generation asking the question. Students representing the Malahide Community School, Ireland recently entered the 2022 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition with a project entitled “UV or not UV?” Investigating if UV technology can be used to sanitise air and surfaces in schools, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Manufacturers are also responding. Indigo-Clean, proven to kill 94% of SARS-CoV2, has incorporated new lighting designs specifically for environments like education.

As we learn to live with COVID now and into the future, we should pursue every avenue available to improve the safety of people as they go about their daily lives – especially the generation of tomorrow. The technology to provide better COVID protection of children at school exists. It is being used elsewhere in the world. Why not in Australia?

Indigo-Clean, brought to Australia and New Zealand by Wilhelm, is operating in a variety of settings in healthcare facilities. They understand the substantial benefits it brings. Surely it’s only a matter of time before our governments realise it’s time to do more?

To see how easy it is to install Indigo-Clean, talk to us