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Call for clarity on ‘shambolic’ clean air strategy for schools

02 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash.

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has asked for more clarity after Labour ministers halted controversial plans to roll out ozone disinfection machines in schools.

On Monday the Welsh Government announced that more than 1,800 ozone disinfecting machines would be provided for schools, colleges, and universities throughout Wales.

Yesterday, however, after concerns were raised by medical professionals and opposition parties, it was reported that the provision of the highly controversial ozone disinfecting machines was a “trial”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said that the “mixed messaging” from the Welsh Government had done little to reassure the public as children returned to school after the summer holidays.

“Welsh Government needs to be clear on the procurement procedures it followed that led to this shambolic situation,” he said.

“Government already has clear advice from its technical advisory group, but where are the instructions to schools, colleges and universities on using CO2 monitors, properly ventilating buildings – even doing things as basic as instructing learners to wear warmer clothing to allow windows to be opened?

“While Welsh Government is still deciding on its back to school safety protocols, our children will already be back to school, with little change in the guidance in keeping them safe.”

‘Reckless’

More than £3 million was going to be spent on the chemical-spraying devices, developed by Swansea University,  in a bid to combat coronavirus in classrooms.

But just days after the announcement from the Welsh Labour Government, and in the light of concerns, ministers halted the decision so they could get expert advice.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Laura Anne Jones MS, said the “U-turn” was “staggering” and asked why scientists’ advice wasn’t sought beforehand.

“Making a rash decision to introduce these toxic chemical-spraying machines, which could have a seriously damaging impact on our youngsters’ heath, without talking to experts is quite frankly a reckless move,” she said.

“Ministers need to publish the advice from experts, along with any risk assessments undertaken, for everyone to see before moving forward with this controversial project.”

Research

The Technical Advisory Group Environmental (TAG-E) Subgroup report on Air Cleaning Devices, published in January, states “Air cleaning devices are not a substitute for ventilation and every effort should be made to increase ventilation before considering them”

The report indicates that performance of most devices is based on data measured in idealised controlled environments, and there is limited evidence for the use of local air-cleaning devices in a “realworld” setting.

SAGE suggested that further research is needed to establish efficacy and any unintended consequences from the application of air cleaning devices.

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