Coronavirus: Germany improves ventilation to chase away Covid

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Media caption,
The BBC's Jenny Hill explains how Germans are giving their love of fresh air a technical boost

The German government is investing €500m (£452m; $488m) in improving ventilation systems in public buildings to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The grants will go to improve the air circulation in public offices, museums, theatres, universities and schools. Private firms are not yet eligible.

Viruses spread on tiny droplets called aerosols, exhaled by infected people - especially when they sneeze or cough.

Studies suggest they can remain in a room's air for at least eight minutes.

Colder weather puts more people at risk because they spend more time indoors.

The main aim is to upgrade existing air conditioning systems, rather than install new ones, which costs more.

Each upgrade is eligible for a maximum of €100,000. Funding is also available for CO2 sensors which indicate when the air in a room is unhealthily stale. The grants will be allocated from Tuesday.

The government also wants schools lacking central air conditioning systems to at least get mobile air purifiers. But much will also depend on how easily rooms can be ventilated simply by opening the windows.

The Bavarian broadcaster BR24 reports that the mobile ventilators, which filter out tiny particles and cost from €2,000 each, can effectively purify a room within minutes.

But German experts say apparatus that relies on UV-light, ionisation or ozone can be ineffective against coronavirus, and in some cases worsen the air quality.

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According to Germany's latest official figures, 4,325 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, but Monday's figure is usually lower as fewer cases are reported at the weekend. The reported German death toll is 9,789.

The infection rate has risen across Germany in recent weeks, but the surge is more marked in some neighbouring countries, notably the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.

Germans love open windows more than ever

Many Germans are a bit bemused that their relationship with fresh air has provoked such curiosity in Britain of late. Why, after all, wouldn't you fling your windows wide open each morning to create a nice healthy draught?

Fresh air has, for a while now, been seen as a key to dealing with coronavirus too. L for Luft (air) was recently added to A for Abstand (distance), H for Hygiene and A for Alltagsmaske (mask) - the official government directives on how to live in corona times.

So choirs rehearse in rooms open to the elements. Train windows are cranked open. Diners are still being served outdoors at many establishments, prompting a national ethical debate over patio heaters.

But, as the air turns sharper and colder, it is education ministers who are feeling the chill. It has been mooted - not always in jest - that children should attend lessons wrapped in coats, gloves, hats and perhaps a duvet, prompting fury among teachers.

And many German classrooms, in poor repair after prolonged underinvestment, simply do not have windows that open. German engineers are on the case though. I recently visited a company which usually manufactures heating and ventilation systems. It has now created an air filtration system designed with windowless classrooms in mind.

There are widespread fears that the new coronavirus wave will only intensify as the weather gets colder in Europe and more people share confined spaces. Windows will stay shut longer to keep out cold draughts.

Virus particles also survive longer when they are not exposed to direct heat and sunlight. The cool air in abattoirs is reckoned to have contributed to several Covid-19 outbreaks in Germany in recent months.

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Watch how germs spread and how you can prevent it

The tiny droplets that carry the virus can not only remain suspended in the air for more than eight minutes, they can also travel several metres.

The German government's advice is to open windows for at least five minutes every hour, for example during class changeovers in schools.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive also recommends fans to dissipate pockets of stale air in rooms and using a fresh air supply, instead of just recirculating air through the air conditioning system.

data in detail

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*Deaths per 100,000 people

US 846,729 258.0 65,249,859
Brazil 621,327 294.4 23,015,128
India 486,451 35.6 37,380,253
Russia 315,495 218.5 10,651,867
Mexico 301,410 236.3 4,368,314
Peru 203,464 625.8 2,606,126
UK 151,987 227.4 15,217,280
Indonesia 144,174 53.3 4,272,421
Italy 141,104 234.0 8,706,915
Iran 132,095 159.3 6,224,196
Colombia 130,996 260.2 5,543,796
France 126,967 189.3 14,172,384
Argentina 118,040 262.7 7,094,865
Germany 115,653 139.1 8,004,519
Ukraine 104,856 236.2 3,941,923
Poland 102,309 269.4 4,323,482
South Africa 93,364 159.4 3,559,292
Spain 90,759 192.8 8,093,036
Turkey 84,758 101.6 10,459,094
Romania 59,257 306.1 1,911,546
Philippines 52,929 49.0 3,242,374
Hungary 40,507 414.6 1,348,233
Chile 39,394 207.9 1,876,610
Czech Republic 36,874 345.6 2,603,766
Vietnam 35,609 36.9 2,023,546
Ecuador 34,206 196.9 602,942
Bulgaria 32,086 460.0 820,608
Malaysia 31,793 99.5 2,808,347
Canada 31,584 84.0 2,773,158
Pakistan 29,019 13.4 1,328,487
Belgium 28,612 249.1 2,410,731
Bangladesh 28,154 17.3 1,624,387
Tunisia 25,803 220.6 788,012
Iraq 24,252 61.7 2,118,779
Egypt 22,148 22.1 400,076
Greece 21,984 205.1 1,660,871
Thailand 21,898 31.5 2,308,615
Netherlands 21,155 122.1 3,568,999
Bolivia 20,238 175.8 749,070
Portugal 19,303 188.0 1,884,974
Myanmar 19,302 35.7 533,144
Japan 18,429 14.6 1,881,469
Kazakhstan 18,293 98.8 1,146,165
Slovakia 17,352 318.1 1,419,379
Paraguay 16,689 236.9 482,506
Guatemala 16,176 97.4 653,171
Sweden 15,513 150.8 1,560,363
Sri Lanka 15,211 69.8 596,347
Morocco 14,976 41.1 1,048,653
Georgia 14,481 389.2 999,343
Austria 13,922 156.8 1,459,306
Bosnia and Herzegovina 13,841 419.3 317,692
Croatia 13,157 323.5 818,832
Serbia 13,071 188.2 1,436,395
Jordan 12,986 128.6 1,100,967
Switzerland 12,499 145.8 1,734,346
Nepal 11,623 40.6 859,485
Honduras 10,449 107.2 382,440
Moldova 10,444 393.0 388,959
Lebanon 9,383 136.9 820,170
Saudi Arabia 8,908 26.0 620,935
Azerbaijan 8,521 85.0 625,726
Cuba 8,340 73.6 999,193
Israel 8,318 91.9 1,792,130
North Macedonia 8,100 388.8 244,632
Armenia 8,020 271.2 347,785
Lithuania 7,660 274.9 570,602
Panama 7,520 177.1 574,856
Costa Rica 7,406 146.7 609,882
Afghanistan 7,381 19.4 158,826
Ethiopia 7,147 6.4 457,322
Algeria 6,412 14.9 226,057
South Korea 6,333 12.2 696,032
Uruguay 6,243 180.3 512,841
Ireland 6,035 122.1 1,103,489
Libya 5,853 86.4 398,055
Belarus 5,836 61.6 717,034
Slovenia 5,705 273.2 538,325
Kenya 5,499 10.5 317,857
Venezuela 5,380 18.9 455,023
Zimbabwe 5,247 35.8 226,078
Palestinian Territories 5,005 106.8 474,234
China 4,849 0.3 118,030
Latvia 4,734 247.5 305,354
Dominican Republic 4,268 39.7 498,583
Oman 4,122 82.9 313,538
Zambia 3,866 21.6 296,817
El Salvador 3,834 59.4 123,577
Namibia 3,821 153.2 154,378
Denmark 3,505 60.2 1,159,986
Uganda 3,424 7.7 158,676
Sudan 3,358 7.8 50,984
Albania 3,269 114.5 232,637
Trinidad and Tobago 3,197 229.2 100,994
Nigeria 3,103 1.5 250,929
Cambodia 3,015 18.3 120,825
Kosovo 2,994 166.9 166,134
Syria 2,947 17.3 50,710
Kyrgyzstan 2,833 43.9 190,468
Australia 2,692 10.6 1,787,361
Jamaica 2,530 85.8 112,218
Botswana 2,514 109.1 237,678
Kuwait 2,476 58.9 465,331
Montenegro 2,474 397.7 203,746
Malawi 2,466 13.2 82,719
United Arab Emirates 2,195 22.5 808,237
Mozambique 2,127 7.0 219,081
Mongolia 2,086 64.7 409,215
Yemen 1,991 6.8 10,308
Estonia 1,984 149.6 269,199
Senegal 1,909 11.7 82,986
Angola 1,863 5.9 93,694
Cameroon 1,853 7.2 109,666
Finland 1,724 31.2 371,135
Uzbekistan 1,518 4.5 206,122
Rwanda 1,408 11.2 125,166
Bahrain 1,398 85.2 308,008
Norway 1,381 25.8 512,393
Eswatini 1,363 118.7 67,849
Ghana 1,343 4.4 153,514
Somalia 1,335 8.6 24,261
DR Congo 1,225 1.4 82,306
Suriname 1,213 208.6 63,878
Madagascar 1,169 4.3 55,138
Guyana 1,095 139.9 51,203
Luxembourg 934 150.7 123,340
Mauritania 908 20.1 54,991
Taiwan 851 3.6 17,885
Singapore 843 14.8 291,849
Guadeloupe 832 208.0 65,135
Martinique 795 211.7 63,055
Haiti 780 6.9 27,082
Ivory Coast 753 2.9 79,088
Fiji 746 83.8 59,785
Tanzania 740 1.3 30,564
Bahamas 719 184.6 30,850
Mali 691 3.5 28,585
Lesotho 687 32.3 31,734
Cyprus 681 56.8 225,738
French Polynesia 636 227.7 47,009
Qatar 627 22.1 303,240
Belize 608 155.8 40,612
Papua New Guinea 596 6.8 36,446
Malta 506 100.7 63,998
Laos 497 6.9 125,333
Réunion 435 48.9 102,216
Guinea 406 3.2 35,202
Cape Verde 372 67.6 53,987
Congo 371 6.9 22,969
French Guiana 344 118.3 65,083
Gambia 344 14.7 11,122
Burkina Faso 339 1.7 20,195
Saint Lucia 314 171.8 17,531
Gabon 297 13.7 45,152
Niger 292 1.3 8,386
Liberia 287 5.8 7,121
New Caledonia 282 98.0 13,829
Barbados 269 93.7 35,373
Maldives 265 49.9 103,581
Togo 261 3.2 35,950
Mauritius 240 19.0 22,586
Nicaragua 218 3.3 17,563
Grenada 203 181.2 9,701
Curaçao 202 128.2 32,892
Djibouti 189 19.4 14,900
Mayotte 186 69.9 33,757
Chad 185 1.2 6,558
Aruba 184 173.1 30,677
Equatorial Guinea 178 13.1 15,319
Benin 162 1.4 26,036
Comoros 159 18.7 7,767
Guinea-Bissau 152 7.9 7,034
Andorra 142 184.1 29,888
Seychelles 136 139.3 31,098
South Sudan 136 1.2 16,489
Tajikistan 125 1.3 17,493
Sierra Leone 125 1.6 7,542
Channel Islands 122 70.8 35,903
Timor-Leste 122 9.4 19,863
Antigua and Barbuda 120 123.6 5,321
Bermuda 110 172.1 8,541
Central African Republic 108 2.3 13,319
San Marino 103 304.2 10,350
Gibraltar 100 296.7 10,935
Brunei 98 22.6 15,797
Eritrea 87 2.5 8,910
St Vincent and the Grenadines 85 76.9 6,581
Sint Maarten 75 184.1 8,530
Liechtenstein 73 192.0 7,265
Isle of Man 70 82.8 19,686
Sao Tome and Principe 66 30.7 5,525
Saint Martin 60 157.9 7,713
New Zealand 52 1.1 15,127
Dominica 48 66.8 7,957
Iceland 44 12.2 48,482
Monaco 44 112.9 6,756
British Virgin Islands 42 139.9 5,255
Burundi 38 0.3 36,257
Turks and Caicos Islands 30 78.6 5,110
Saint Kitts and Nevis 28 53.0 4,933
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba 26 100.1 5,561
Cayman Islands 15 23.1 11,666
Faroe Islands 15 30.8 10,169
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Wallis and Futuna Islands 7 61.2 454
Saint Barthelemy 6 60.9 2,927
Anguilla 6 40.3 2,040
Greenland 3 5.3 7,871
Bhutan 3 0.4 3,069
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Montserrat 1 20.0 139
Vanuatu 1 0.3 7
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0 0.0 415
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 85
Vatican 0 0.0 27
Solomon Islands 0 0.0 25
Palau 0 0.0 8
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 7
Saint Helena 0 0.0 4
Samoa 0 0.0 3
Cook Islands 0 0.0 2
Kiribati 0 0.0 2
Tonga 0 0.0 1
Micronesia 0 0.0 1

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This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals for each country.

** The past data for new cases is a three day rolling average. Due to revisions in the number of cases, an average cannot be calculated for this date.

Source: Johns Hopkins University and national public health agencies

Figures last updated: 17 January 2022, 15:51 GMT

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