Although I have been at Surrey for over 20 years I grew up in South Wales, where my mother still lives. In fact she lives in the Neath Senedd constituency of the Welsh government’s Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles. The Welsh government, under Jeremy Miles has had a bit of a brain fade and planned to introduce ozone machines into Wales’ classrooms. These don’t work, essentially because ozone is toxic so you can’t run machines while children and teachers are in them. But as the virus is breathed out by infected people, you have to purify or refresh the air while people (including possibly an infected person) are actually in the room. Running an ozone machine at 7 am in an empty classroom is a waste of everyone’s time, and protects no one.
So, a month ago (just before term started) I wrote to Jeremy Miles, pointing out the uselessness of ozone machines. I had a reply today. I have two problems with the reply:
- They don’t seem to get the point that ozone machines are useless but instead are “working with a Technical Advisory Group (TAG)”. There is a consensus among engineers and scientists who work on how diseases such as COVID-19 are transmitted across the air, on what measures do and do not work to reduce transmission. Filtering the air with good quality air filters, while people are in classrooms, or improving ventilation (i.e., more fresh air) do work. Ozone machines do not. This is known, and has been the consensus for months, maybe a year.
- Schools started almost a month ago and in the first two weeks of term, the infection rate among children already doubled (see plot here). So a month into term, the Welsh government is still trying to answer a question which has already been answered, while more and more children are being infected.
The second point is just disappointing. I understand that governments are large organisations that tend to move slowly, but when the number of infections increases, it tends to increase exponentially. This makes acting early important. It is disappointing that our governments don’t seem to be able do this.
The first point shows that the government of a country of 3 million people is just incapable of accessing the scientific consensus on an important public health problem. I suggested that they just read the relevant SAGE report. But they could also just email say ten heads of UK university civil engineering departments. Just ask each head of department if they have anyone working in this area and if they have to ask that person: “Do ozone machines work to protect from COVID-19 transmission?”. If the minister of a government of a country of 3 million people asks, then I think they will get prompt replies. Then if say 5 of 6 replies are no, then job done. Ozone machines don’t work and the government can act accordingly.
This could have been done at the latest in August when the number of Welsh children infected with COVID-19 was a fraction of what it is now. UK, including Welsh, taxpayers are paying the salaries of people who know the answer to this question, but frustratingly, the Welsh government is not asking them.