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New NPHET ventilation group has formed

An expert group on ventilation, formed to advise the national public health emergency team (NPHET), held its first meeting on 2 February.

Its finalised terms of reference and membership list will be published in the coming days, a Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).

In January, Chair of the NPHET and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, requested that the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government and Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Prof Mark Ferguson “assemble a group of relevant experts with a range of backgrounds that would advise the NPHET on ventilation and its various aspects (eg, indoor air quality, architectural design, engineering, aerosol physics, building standards, etc)”.

The group will provide its advice to NPHET through Prof Ferguson, according to the Department’s spokesperson.

In Ireland and abroad, there has been criticism of the lack of focus on ventilation in public health messaging and measures, despite broad acknowledgement of the potential for airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, particularly in indoor settings with poor ventilation.

The extent of the role played by airborne transmission is a matter of ongoing debate in the medical and scientific community.

Concerns about insufficient measures in place to improve ventilation, including in healthcare and long-term care settings, are featured in the latest edition of MI.

Meanwhile, MI asked the Department for details of the process by which new members are included on the NPHET.  “New members may be added at a given point in time to enable further consideration on specific issues of concern. New members are appointed to the NPHET by the Chair and this done in consultation with the Minister for Health,” said the spokesperson.

Recently, new appointments were made to the NPHET, namely RCPI President Prof Mary Horgan, a Consultant in Infectious Diseases; Prof Karina Butler, Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and a Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases; and Prof Ferguson.

In autumn 2020, the expert advisory group to the NPHET was reconstituted under HIQA with a broader membership.

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