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.

Media caption,
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 1,002,208 305.3 83,475,439
Brazil 666,676 315.9 31,019,038
India 524,636 38.4 43,160,832
Russia 371,464 257.3 18,063,880
Mexico 324,922 254.7 5,775,977
Peru 213,195 655.8 3,580,960
UK 177,890 266.2 22,232,377
Italy 166,697 276.5 17,421,410
Indonesia 156,591 57.9 6,054,973
France 145,101 216.4 28,703,050
Iran 141,315 170.4 7,232,034
Colombia 139,854 277.8 6,103,455
Germany 139,091 167.3 26,360,953
Argentina 128,889 286.8 9,230,573
Poland 116,318 306.3 6,007,584
Ukraine 112,459 253.4 5,040,518
Spain 106,493 226.2 12,360,256
South Africa 101,190 172.8 3,957,777
Turkey 98,965 118.6 15,072,747
Romania 65,684 339.3 2,909,195
Philippines 60,455 55.9 3,690,581
Chile 57,892 305.5 3,702,941
Hungary 46,547 476.4 1,919,840
Vietnam 43,079 44.7 10,719,379
Canada 41,070 109.3 3,884,792
Czech Republic 40,288 377.6 3,920,299
Bulgaria 37,148 532.5 1,165,167
Malaysia 35,676 111.7 4,506,510
Ecuador 35,637 205.1 877,282
Belgium 31,754 276.5 4,152,558
Japan 30,619 24.2 8,838,747
Pakistan 30,379 14.0 1,530,453
Thailand 30,047 43.2 4,459,241
Greece 29,845 278.5 3,453,229
Bangladesh 29,131 17.9 1,953,507
Tunisia 28,641 244.9 1,042,872
Iraq 25,219 64.2 2,328,154
Egypt 24,718 24.6 515,645
South Korea 24,197 46.8 18,119,415
Portugal 23,115 225.1 4,683,018
Netherlands 22,343 128.9 8,169,928
Bolivia 21,948 190.6 909,110
Slovakia 20,100 368.5 2,542,564
Austria 19,927 224.5 4,288,153
Myanmar 19,434 36.0 613,336
Kazakhstan 19,015 102.7 1,394,909
Sweden 18,977 184.5 2,507,948
Paraguay 18,894 268.2 650,661
Guatemala 18,152 109.3 861,002
Georgia 16,811 451.9 1,655,221
Sri Lanka 16,517 75.8 663,834
Serbia 16,081 231.5 2,017,454
Morocco 16,076 44.1 1,168,303
Croatia 15,987 393.0 1,136,500
Bosnia and Herzegovina 15,788 478.3 377,904
China 14,604 1.0 2,426,932
Jordan 14,066 139.2 1,696,937
Switzerland 13,800 160.9 3,674,986
Nepal 11,952 41.8 979,140
Moldova 11,537 434.1 518,793
Honduras 10,899 111.8 425,371
Israel 10,852 119.9 4,138,515
Lebanon 10,429 152.1 1,099,199
Azerbaijan 9,713 96.9 792,767
North Macedonia 9,303 446.5 311,936
Saudi Arabia 9,148 26.7 768,079
Lithuania 9,146 328.2 1,062,669
Armenia 8,625 291.6 422,963
Australia 8,558 33.7 7,312,403
Cuba 8,529 75.3 1,105,319
Costa Rica 8,525 168.9 904,934
Panama 8,255 194.4 858,268
Afghanistan 7,705 20.3 180,347
Ethiopia 7,513 6.7 472,743
Ireland 7,304 147.8 1,561,632
Uruguay 7,238 209.1 925,777
Belarus 6,978 73.7 982,867
Algeria 6,875 16.0 265,884
Slovenia 6,637 317.9 1,025,030
Libya 6,430 94.9 502,016
Denmark 6,363 109.4 3,136,896
Latvia 5,824 304.5 828,614
Venezuela 5,721 20.1 523,654
Palestinian Territories 5,660 120.8 657,705
Kenya 5,651 10.7 324,976
Zimbabwe 5,506 37.6 252,703
Sudan 4,942 11.5 62,355
Finland 4,522 81.9 1,092,193
Dominican Republic 4,377 40.8 584,029
Oman 4,260 85.6 389,473
El Salvador 4,132 64.0 162,755
Namibia 4,038 161.9 166,363
Zambia 3,987 22.3 321,779
Trinidad and Tobago 3,917 280.8 161,584
Uganda 3,602 8.1 164,366
Albania 3,497 122.5 276,101
Syria 3,150 18.5 55,892
Nigeria 3,143 1.6 256,028
Norway 3,141 58.7 1,433,641
Kosovo 3,139 174.9 228,359
Jamaica 3,056 103.7 137,266
Cambodia 3,056 18.5 136,262
Kyrgyzstan 2,991 46.3 200,993
Montenegro 2,720 437.2 237,223
Botswana 2,697 117.1 308,126
Malawi 2,640 14.2 85,985
Estonia 2,574 194.0 576,870
Kuwait 2,555 60.7 633,225
United Arab Emirates 2,305 23.6 908,205
Taiwan 2,255 9.5 2,032,983
Mozambique 2,203 7.3 225,754
Mongolia 2,179 67.6 925,073
Yemen 2,149 7.4 11,822
Senegal 1,966 12.1 86,111
Cameroon 1,930 7.5 119,947
Angola 1,900 6.0 99,761
Uzbekistan 1,637 4.9 239,046
Bahrain 1,488 90.7 585,665
Rwanda 1,459 11.6 130,057
Ghana 1,445 4.8 161,370
Eswatini 1,409 122.7 72,510
Madagascar 1,395 5.2 64,377
Singapore 1,389 24.4 1,303,294
Somalia 1,361 8.8 26,565
Suriname 1,350 232.2 80,547
DR Congo 1,338 1.5 88,374
Guyana 1,234 157.6 64,763
New Zealand 1,140 23.2 1,170,815
Luxembourg 1,073 173.1 244,182
Cyprus 1,059 88.4 489,963
Mauritius 996 78.7 225,862
Mauritania 982 21.7 59,141
Guadeloupe 947 236.7 157,865
Martinique 918 244.4 162,163
Fiji 864 97.1 65,007
Tanzania 840 1.4 35,354
Haiti 835 7.4 30,818
Bahamas 810 208.0 34,759
Ivory Coast 799 3.1 82,215
Réunion 777 87.4 414,615
Laos 756 10.5 210,026
Mali 734 3.7 31,097
Malta 721 143.4 94,742
Lesotho 698 32.8 33,358
Qatar 677 23.9 368,788
Belize 677 173.4 59,365
Papua New Guinea 651 7.4 44,481
French Polynesia 649 232.4 72,951
Barbados 450 156.8 80,654
Guinea 442 3.5 36,764
Cape Verde 402 73.1 56,324
French Guiana 397 136.5 82,952
Congo 385 7.2 24,079
Burkina Faso 384 1.9 20,899
Saint Lucia 371 203.0 25,593
Gambia 365 15.5 12,002
New Caledonia 313 108.8 62,193
Niger 310 1.3 9,031
Gabon 304 14.0 47,650
Maldives 299 56.3 179,753
Liberia 294 6.0 7,456
Curaçao 277 175.8 43,864
Togo 273 3.4 37,095
Nicaragua 238 3.6 18,491
Grenada 226 201.8 17,750
Brunei 223 51.5 148,674
Aruba 213 200.3 37,034
Chad 193 1.2 7,417
Djibouti 189 19.4 15,675
Mayotte 187 70.3 37,581
Equatorial Guinea 183 13.5 15,921
Channel Islands 176 102.2 76,190
Guinea-Bissau 171 8.9 8,269
Seychelles 167 171.1 44,016
Benin 163 1.4 26,952
Comoros 160 18.8 8,120
Iceland 153 42.3 188,291
Andorra 153 198.3 42,894
Solomon Islands 146 21.8 18,174
South Sudan 138 1.2 17,617
Bermuda 138 215.9 14,755
Antigua and Barbuda 138 142.1 8,253
Timor-Leste 131 10.1 22,915
Tajikistan 125 1.3 17,786
Sierra Leone 125 1.6 7,682
San Marino 115 339.6 17,124
Central African Republic 113 2.4 14,649
St Vincent and the Grenadines 107 96.8 8,670
Isle of Man 106 125.3 32,966
Eritrea 103 2.9 9,759
Gibraltar 102 302.7 18,419
Sint Maarten 86 211.1 10,353
Liechtenstein 84 220.9 17,469
Sao Tome and Principe 73 33.9 5,991
Dominica 65 90.5 14,184
Saint Martin 63 165.8 10,668
British Virgin Islands 62 206.5 6,765
Monaco 57 146.3 12,186
Saint Kitts and Nevis 43 81.4 5,729
Burundi 38 0.3 42,034
Turks and Caicos Islands 36 94.3 6,123
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba 35 134.7 10,091
Faroe Islands 28 57.5 34,658
Cayman Islands 28 43.1 25,318
Samoa 26 13.2 13,499
Bhutan 21 2.8 59,628
Greenland 21 37.3 11,971
Vanuatu 14 4.7 9,088
Kiribati 13 11.1 3,098
Diamond Princess cruise ship 13 712
Tonga 12 11.5 11,644
Anguilla 9 60.5 3,203
Wallis and Futuna Islands 7 61.2 454
Palau 6 33.3 5,065
Saint Barthelemy 6 60.9 4,630
Montserrat 6 120.2 980
MS Zaandam cruise ship 2 9
Cook Islands 1 5.7 5,675
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 1 17.2 2,748
Falkland Islands 0 0.0 1,687
Micronesia 0 0.0 30
Vatican 0 0.0 29
Marshall Islands 0 0.0 17
Antarctica 0 11
Saint Helena 0 0.0 4

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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: 1 June 2022, 10:24 BST