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Coronavirus protection: Bonn city authorities are to purchase 150 air filtration units for schools and nurseries

Coronavirus protection : Bonn city authorities are to purchase 150 air filtration units for schools and nurseries

After a lot of wrangling, the city of Bonn will now purchase 150 air purifiers. These are to be deployed in several schools and nurseries that cannot be adequately ventilated. However, the mobile devices are only a temporary solution.

Bonn city authorities now want to purchase around 150 air purifiers for rooms in municipal schools and nurseries that cannot be sufficiently ventilated according to the latest guidelines from the Federal Environment Agency. This was announced on Thursday by financial officer Margarete Heidler, deputy head of the city’s crisis management team, as a result of the committee’s meeting on Wednesday. She estimates acquisition costs of around 3000 euro per unit. Installation and maintenance costs are on top.

The details were provided at a press conference on Thursday with members of the crisis management team: 117 classrooms in municipal schools and 20 rooms in three municipal nurseries are to be equipped with mobile air filtration devices to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. However, the mobile devices are only a temporary solution. In the long term, permanent air purification and extraction systems are to be fitted in the rooms. Heidler said that the city authorities want to use the funding promised by the federal and state governments. The level of the funding has not yet been determined.

Following months of discussions about the mobile air purifiers in Bonn schools, the city council commissioned the administration department to examine the use of air filters in schools and nurseries. According to Lutz Leide, head of the municipal building management (SGB), the examination was carried out in spring by Tüv Rheinland Energy GmbH (TRE). In contrast to the inspections carried out by the SGB itself last year, which identified little need for action with air purifiers, it now turns out that 117 school rooms fall into the Federal Environment Agency’s category 2, meaning, for example, that windows or skylights can only be tilted and not fully opened. In Bonn, however, it seems that this only affects four per cent of the approximately 3,000 classrooms in total. “This puts us well below the state average,” Carolin Krause, head of the school and youth department in Bonn, is pleased to say. The state average is 15 to 20 per cent.

Three schools and one nursery were selected and examined: the Tannenbusch Schulzentrum, the Marienschule, the Heinrich-Hertz-Europakolleg and the Gerhard-Hauptmann-Straße nursery. The air change rate and the required volume flows of fresh air were determined, explains Leide.

Professor Martin Exner, former director of the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health and managing director of the Centre for Infectiology and Infection Control at the University of Bonn, is an advisor on the Bonn crisis team and warns that these devices cannot replace all other measures such as ventilation, wearing masks, and above all vaccination. The devices can filter the viral loads from the air, but they cannot provide the required fresh air supply. The air purifiers therefore convey a “deceptive” sense of security, he said. “In any case, regular ventilation must continue, and the hygiene rules we have learned during the pandemic must be consistently observed,” Exner stressed.

City wants to purchase ventilation units immediately

Although the specific conditions of the funding announced by the federal and state governments for the filtration units remain unknown, the city of Bonn plans to put out a tender and procure them without delay. “We know that there is a big run on these devices starting now and that they may be in short supply on the market”, says Heidler. Leide stressed that all air filtration devices purchased by parents so far may not be set up or operated in municipal schools.

Further planning for installing permanent systems will be carried out alongside procuring the mobile units, explained the SGB head. According to current information, each permanently installed air purification and extraction system costs around 15,000 euro plus planning, installation and maintenance costs.

In this context, Susanne Engels, head of the public health department, urged everyone who has been offered the vaccination to take it up. This also includes children from the age of twelve, who can now receive their first jab at the vaccination centre in the WCCB. The centre is supposed to close at the end of August. However, according to financial officer Heidler, the city is in negotiations with Bonn Conference Center Management GmbH and the fire brigade to possibly keep the offer of vaccination open until the end of September. According to Engels, the second vaccinations can be readily administered at the mobile vaccination stations, and paediatricians and other practising doctors are also available specifically for this purpose. “We have been instructed by the state to administer the first vaccinations continually at the vaccination centre.”

The city does not want to approach schools at the moment. The exception is vocational schools, with whom discussions are being held, said Engels. “Currently the most infections are found in the age groups between 15 and 45 years. I can only urge everyone to get vaccinated.”

(Original text: Lisa Inhoffen, Translation: Caroline Kusch)