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Melbourne announces plan to reduce Covid transmission at workplaces

Authorities in Melbourne on Friday released a project promising to cut down the transmission of Covid-19 by improving ventilation in office spaces throughout the city.

A first-of-its-kind study evaluated three different ventilation systems over three months in vacant office buildings including displacement ventilation air conditioning, in-ceiling air filters, and natural airflow through open windows, reports Xinhua news agency.

The pilot study found that while all three methods reduced the potential for transmission of airborne viruses, displacement ventilation air conditioning, which supplies air from the floor level, was the most effective in lowering Covid-19 transmission by 83 per cent, while also reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent.

“This industry-leading research has identified simple but effective changes that can be implemented in office buildings to help workers feel safe, comfortable and protected,” said Melbourne Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece.

“Bringing people back to the city safely remains a key priority for the city of Melbourne, and that’s why we have undertaken this pilot study.”

The project found that while opening windows reduced transmission by 53 per cent, it was not an ideal solution as it increased energy use by up to 20 per cent and was not available to all buildings.

While data shows workers are beginning to return to the office in the wake of strict lockdowns, the return has been a trickle and not the flood many had predicted.

Data from the Australian property representative body, the Property Council of Australia, has shown that in May office occupancy rates in Australian cities were still around 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Beyond addressing workers’ fears about catching Covid-19 in the office, municipal governments have been rolling out various programs to incentivize workers to return to the office, including discounts for meals and free events for people during their lunch breaks.

Similarly, businesses have been offering various hybrid work options to allow residents to maintain some of the flexibility of working from home while easing back into office life.

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