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Venue ventilation: Government updates guidance

by Martin Fullard

The Government has updated its events guidance, emphasising the importance of improved ventilation during the winter months.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says that event organisers should take steps to reduce the risk of transmission at an event, in addition to existing cleaning and hygiene procedures.  

The new guidance, which applies only in England, states that if a venue is hired for an event, organisers should discuss ventilation and cleaning with the venue operator. “Make sure you are comfortable with their [the venue’s] risk management protocols,” the guidance reads. “You should agree with the venue in advance any additional measures you will take to manage risk, such as opening windows to increase ventilation.”

The DCMS adds that elite sport event organisers should review existing protocols to ensure they are appropriate for the event, including the attendance of spectators. For example, consult the medical officer to ensure the medical protocols include sufficient cover for the number of spectators expected, and ensure any risk assessment includes processes to follow if a case is suspected on-site.

How to improve ventilation

The Scientist Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised the Government that ventilation is one of the most efficient ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19 particles. The guidance, organisers are advised to achieve this by opening windows and doors where possible, even for brief periods to refresh the air circulation.

The updated guidance also states: “Encourage people to use outside space where it’s practical, especially for higher-risk activities such as exercise, or when people are singing or raising their voices.”

On improving mechanical ventilation, the Government says that systems should be set to maximise fresh air and minimise air recirculation.

It is not advised to recirculate air from one space to another. Systems which recirculate air from one space to another are likely to increase the risk of transmission, and venues should establish which systems they have.

Recirculation units that do not bring in fresh air can remain in operation as long as there is an alternative supply of fresh air.

One of the key issues on ventilation is that, while simple for large, modern venues, there are hundreds of older and heritage venues which may not have such systems or even opening windows.

“Heritage locations should take care to increase ventilation in a way which does not endanger historic items,” the guidance says. “Doors and windows can be propped open if they do not cause an environmental, collection, safety, fire or security risk.”

The guidance does not offer solutions for older venues that are not able to provide adequate ventilation. In this instance, it is likely that organisers insist upon proof of Covid-19 vaccination or face coverings.

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