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It's been two years since the COVID-19 virus surged into the global consciousness. During that time, we've had to learn a great deal. A lot of information. A lot of guidance. For many people, COVID-19 has highlighted the vital role science has in fighting disease.
In July 2020, six months after the pandemic began, 239 scientists signed an open letter appealing to the medical community and governing bodies to recognise the potential risk of airborne transmission. That same month, a blog from Initial Hygiene agreed there was overwhelming evidence that infection by airborne particles was more important than first thought.
Today, it's no secret that COVID-19 can spread when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. That means the virus is likely to spread in poorly ventilated or crowded indoor settings, especially where people spend long periods.
Surfaces can also become contaminated by the virus. Wearing masks and washing hands thoroughly remain two of the best ways to protect ourselves. But what else have we learnt as we attempt to live with the pandemic?
Initial recently examined the global shifts in societal behaviour for hygiene. A total of 20,000 respondents across 20 countries took part in the survey. The resulting report identified that thanks to a greater understanding of COVID-19, people are more aware than ever of airborne transmission. And not only have attitudes shifted but so have expectations.
In a previous study by Initial, 91% of people said the appearance of a well-equipped and clean washroom gave confidence in the quality of food and beverages served. This statistic might still be accurate, but because of COVID-19, the quality of food and drink probably isn’t the first thing customers think about when using washrooms or public spaces.
The pandemic and increased awareness of how easily cross-contamination can occur – even in seemingly clean spaces – has shifted the focus towards hygiene. Respondents to the survey feel hygiene must come to the forefront of decisions made by people and businesses across the globe.
One of the reasons for this is that 74% of people surveyed are concerned about the hygiene standards of other guests and visitors when visiting a public venue following the pandemic. But what, specifically, are people worried about?
The survey revealed the increasing importance of clean air to consumers. According to results, 72% are more concerned about the spread of germs via the air they breathe indoors in a public venue than before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the focus shifting to airborne transmission over the last year, it's hardly a surprise.
Over two-thirds of respondents (68%) expressed increased concern about the number of pollutants in the indoor air from a public venue, while 71% of people are more concerned now about the impact of poor indoor air quality in a public venue on their health than before the pandemic.
The overarching global belief, held by 45% of us, is that venues have a greater responsibility for ensuring public spaces are free from potential sources of infection. If they fail to take responsibility, results also identified that since the pandemic, nearly half of respondents would leave a venue (47%) or not return (48%) if hygiene measures were not adequate.
An article in Forbes suggests that hygiene, not just cleanliness, is our new definition of safety. These days, a clean environment is expected. It will no longer allow you to stand out from the crowd. If, for example, we’re eating in a restaurant or staying in a hotel, we can see if something isn’t clean. We cannot, however, see something has been made hygienically safe.
Poor indoor air is an invisible threat, and so what the consumer and employee need is demonstrable, visible reassurance that the problem is being dealt with. But we cannot just open windows. By doing so, our exposure to toxic air pollution particles could increase. Businesses are, therefore, faced with a dilemma. Guard against air pollution by keeping windows closed, but, in turn, increase the risk from COVID-19 and other common viruses.
Business owners might miss out on much-needed custom unless they can address this problem. Noticeable air filtration units placed in suitable locations for maximum efficacy will not only improve comfort levels, concentration levels and reduce sickness and absenteeism, but they will also provide visual reassurance – one of the important ways to show customers and employees that you’re implementing high standards of air hygiene and that you care about your people.
There’s a new benchmark, and concerns over air quality are here to stay. Those businesses that ensure air is part of their hygiene strategies will place themselves in an optimum position for success. Reputations will be enhanced, values reflected, and confidence will be delivered.
Air purification is one of the clean air strategies recommended by the International Well Building Institute in its special report on building resilience and recovery. They recommend limiting sources of indoor pollution and increasing the supply of good quality air. Good air hygiene in spaces where people are together for long periods is an essential component of air safety measures when trying to prevent the transmission of airborne diseases, such as COVID-19.
Indoor air quality should be a big concern to businesses, facilities managers, customers and employees because it can impact everyone's health, comfort, wellbeing and productivity. Preparation is vital because such a concern will not vanish into thin air overnight. Expectations and attitudes towards cleaner air have changed because of the pandemic and are here to stay.
Learn more about the impact that COVID-19 has had on hygiene attitudes and behaviours or explore our range of industry-leading air purifiers and take the first step in building customer trust and reassurance.
Explore the link between safe air, health and consumers expectations in our latest whitepaper.
Initial provides a range of highly effective and affordable air purification to help protect your indoor environment.