Professor Stephen Reicher, a Sage adviser, said the Government should stop criticising the public about rules and make messaging on the safety of spaces a lot more clearer instead
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Pubs should have “Covid health certificates” to show how likely it is for Covid infections to be passed onto people, a Government scientific advisor has said.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) subcommittee advising on behavioural science, said it’s much more important for the Government to provide clear information on how well ventilated spaces are, rather than placing the responsibility on themselves to follow particular rules.
And he stressed the importance of ventilation in reducing the spread of Coronavirus.
Earlier this week, the Government updated its Covid guidance on testing and prevention, warning people that they are more likely to catch Covid or pass it on if they are in crowded spaces or where there is “limited fresh air”.
Officials noted the risk of catching Covid is much higher if you are “spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces” and even told people to take lateral flow tests before heading out to crowded spaces.
Nicola Sturgeon went a step further and told Scots to take rapid Covid tests anytime they were socialising or shopping.
Professor Reicher said improving the ventilation of all public spaces is “the most crucial thing” we can do to stop the spread of the airborne virus.
“Even more important than hand washing,” he explained to a panel of experts hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine.
“Rather than castigate the public as irresponsible, it will be much more productive for the Government to create systems that allow people to express the safety of spaces.”
The Department for Health and Social Care have only rolled out an advert explaining the importance of keeping spaces well ventilated, almost two years since the pandemic begun.
The explainer film launched in November 2021, shows the impact of ventilation on reducing COVID-19 levels, and has clear advice for people to open windows for 10 minutes each hour when socialising indoors.
Health officials admitted new research reveals how only a third of the public understand importance of ventilation, backing up Professor Reicher’s call for clearer Government messaging.
The sage adviser’s comments echo the calls of Independent Sage scientists.
The group said there is a need for a public health messaging scheme, including “a rating” and potential certification system, that can support behaviour around the use of indoor spaces.
It follows a new study from Cambridge University which claims Covid became much more lethal across the UK in late 2020.
Experts used modelling to show that infections were becoming more deadly even before the highly transmissible Alpha variant of the virus took hold.
They concluded that other factors, such as pressure on health services and the colder months, may have led to a higher number of people dying once they were infected than earlier in the year.
Ventilation has finally been addressed under Boris Johnson’s Covid ‘plan B’ for winter.
Fresh air campaigns only began to gain traction as part of the Government’s messaging towards the end of 2020.