In wars and pandemics, the two-year mark seems to be the point where many of us shift from a crisis mindset to learning how to live with it. This seems to be happening with Covid: even though there will undoubtedly be other variants of concern (VOCs) that follow Omicron, the focus now seems to be on finding ways to go back to school, work and play – more safely than before.
Some governments are also changing their policies, despite ongoing increases in infection rates; as The Atlantic journal put it, “The goal is to help us cope with a surge of cases, not to prevent one from happening in the first place.” The clear message is that, as long as we behave appropriately and with caution to mitigate virus-related risks, we can conduct full, active lives safely. Various factors underpin this changing approach, leading some to forecast we are in a transition phase and witnessing the disease’s endgame: a distinct shift from eradication to control – and broadband solutions are going to be critical in this shift.
MEDICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL DEFENSE
Armed with greater knowledge and effective interventions, we are more resilient. Vaccines and boosters, rapid testing and immunity through infection have all strengthened our protection. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, believes polyvalent vaccines and new antivirals should reduce the need for social constraints from around mid 2023, “So I don’t see this as a kind of ‘we’re going to have to do this (social restrictions) repeatedly every few months’ situation. I think the risks will gradually decrease over time; it’s incremental.”
Further, multiple studies confirm that the Omicron variant causes less severe disease than previous strains; although more transmissible it results in fewer deaths and hospital admissions. As more people are exposed, “humanity will be a lot less immunologically naïve, which might help us better handle future strains of the coronavirus without a significant increase in mortality”. The previous disruptive measures governments imposed can be substituted by effective interventions. Vaccine development must continue; we need new pan-variant formulations better equipped to counter emerging strains.
Also, the current focus on reducing severe illness and shielding healthcare systems needs to be broadened to heighten protection against initial infection; Omicron is unlikely to be the last VOC. In fact, though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed it is not a VOC, sub variant BA.2 has already been detected. “It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on,” Dr. Meera Chand, Covid-19 incident director at the UK Health Security Agency.
Developments in our categorisation of Covid spread have clarified the most effective countermeasures against community transmission. Whereas early advice addressed the risk of infection from contaminated surfaces, subsequent scientific data suggests the virus is primarily passed on through inhalation of fine aerosol particles that can hang in the air for long periods. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “People release respiratory fluids during exhalation (e.g., quiet breathing, speaking, singing, exercise, coughing, sneezing) in the form of droplets across a spectrum of sizes.” As an airborne pathogen, heightened transmission occurs in “enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation or air handling within which the concentration of exhaled respiratory fluids, particularly very fine droplets and aerosol particles, can build up in the air space.”
The mitigations against infection we’ve developed as the virus itself has mutated have enabled acceptance of a less prohibitive long-term model of Covid management that recognises the virus is endemic. In pandemic situations, incidents of disease rocket suddenly across countries, continents or even globally while epidemics refer to rapidly rising cases through large populations. Rather than attempting to eradicate Covid entirely, there is growing acknowledgement that it’s here to stay and ‘the new normal’ will be to live safely alongside it. “The appetite for economically damaging lockdowns is long gone.”
Like illnesses including malaria, flu or measles, Covid will persist constantly with low spread rates, or endemically. This doesn’t mean we stop taking the virus seriously, it will continue to make people gravely ill and cause death, especially in the elderly and vulnerable. However, CDC estimates show 95,000 deaths from flu occurred in the US between 2017 and 2018 and 41 million people were infected. Annual economic losses total $11.2 billion. The UK saw 26,408 deaths over the same period. Despite this, governments do not impose restrictions every winter and, other than choosing to be vaccinated, most people do not change their behaviours. Mask wearing has been common in some parts of Asia for over a century, reaching peak popularity during the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. Before Covid, the trend wasn’t adopted by most in the West.
HVAC: HEATING, VENTILATION AND AIR CONDITIONING
Since scientific evidence proves Covid is predominantly spread indoors through aerosol transmission and its reach is exacerbated by vigorous exhalation, it follows that air filtration and adequate indoor ventilation must feature highly in public health risk-reduction strategies. Air quality is key. Currently, indoor air is mainly controlled by equipment so its temperature and humidity are regulated and odours neutralised. Air may even be purified through HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to remove dust and pollen. However, according to Science News, “Learning how to clean the air of potentially virus-laden aerosols could have long-term benefits for health and allow businesses and schools to remain open during future outbreaks.” A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal states that “we must now confront the neglected, but substantive, role of air in transmitting infection”.
GC HALO™: BROADBAND PROTECTION AGAINST PATHOGENS
“Experts recommend filtering air through materials that can trap airborne particles containing the virus.” This is the precise role we’ve formulated GC Halo™ to fulfill, but we’ve gone further. Using powerful, dual action virucidal and antimicrobial nanochemistry, GC Halo destroys viruses and bacteria once they’re caught. Providing superior, long-lasting protection, GC Halo has wide-ranging uses anywhere health, safety and wellbeing are paramount. Simple and inexpensive, GC Halo air filtration is easily installed, requiring no retroﬁtting, and compatible with existing ﬁlter maintenance programmes.
Proven to be effective against coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2 and flu, and due to its unique action of oxidizing the lipid membrane protecting coronavirus RNA, GC Halo is designed to kill all variants of Covid including the current Omicron. Preliminary results show that it is also effective against bacteria Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Staphylococcus aureus and fungi Aspergillus niger (black mould).
Just as we have public health and safety strategies for building design, food, water standards and pollution control, we need regulated air quality policies to be introduced to safeguard society. Building regulations stipulate requirements covering fire protection, control of Legionnaire’s Disease and safety glass amongst many things. In the UK, The Building Safety Bill is progressing through parliament in response to cladding concerns prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire and is expected to become law in 2022.
When entire communities, countries, continents shut their doors, the costs are catastrophic: economically, educationally, culturally, physically and mentally. As China continues its zero-tolerance Covid policy, the IMF’s head, Kristalina Georgieva has warned the hardline approach is unsustainable and becoming a global issue. UK teachers report the huge damage to pupils whose learning Covid interrupted; many 11-year-olds are five years behind in their reading. As well as educational disadvantage, the most deprived children have missed the stability and security school affords. 100,000 have disappeared from the UK’s school rolls. Infection control needs to be integral to the way we live rather than imposed by draconian measures from outside, and GC Halo is designed to help: affordably, conveniently and efficiently – a new paradigm in ventilation.