Air filters will be installed on London buses


Air filters are going be installed on buses in a bid to protect drivers, it has been revealed today. 

The technology will be installed on 100 London buses which are used to take ferry patients to and from hospitals, according to The Times.  

The AirBubbl air filtration system supplied by technology company AirLabs can remove more than 95 per cent of harmful particles that pass through the filter. 

It is hoped the move will minimise the risk of exposure to the virus for staff who will come into close contact with infected patients in confined spaces. 

This comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for compulsory masks to be worn on tubes and buses after 26 Transport for London (TfL) staff members died of coronavirus. 

Commuters in London were seen using the tube network with many covering their faces with masks 

Commuters Travel on London's underground network. One is seen using a mask and another has his scarf around his face

Commuters Travel on London’s underground network. One is seen using a mask and another has his scarf around his face

A bus driver wears a face mask as he sits in the driver's seat on a bus at Victoria Station, central London, on Friday

A bus driver wears a face mask as he sits in the driver’s seat on a bus at Victoria Station, central London, on Friday

Almost half of Britons want compulsory facemasks after lockdown

A poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton strategies this week found 48 per cent of Britons wanted the government to make wearing a facemask compulsory when lockdown is eased.

Some 54 per cent thought the policy had not been put in place because ministers did not believe it was effective.

However, 37 per cent suggested the government was not implementing the move because there are not enough masks in the UK. 

Ashley Stowell, advanced paramedic practitioner and clinical director for HATS, said: ‘We originally decided to install air filtration to protect our patients and our crews from London’s air pollution, as part of our ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of our staff. As the pandemic hit, it quickly became apparent that we could repurpose our vehicles to help transport patients infected by SARS-CoV-2.

‘In order to do this we decided to ramp up installation, along with the rapid deployment of extra vehicles for a number of additional services, including ITU transfers of COVID-19 patients and maternity services to a number of Hospital Trusts across London, in a bid to help reduce the cross infection on this mountain we are all having to climb.’ 

By using air filtration in an enclosed space and reducing the airborne virus load, there is a potential to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 where people are in close proximity, such as ambulances, patient transport and other service vehicles.

Matthew Johnson, professor of chemistry at University of Copenhagen and chief science officer at AirLabs, said: ‘Our focus here is on reducing exposure for workers who cannot avoid close contact with coronavirus patients, and for anyone working in essential jobs in enclosed spaces.

‘The science shows that by installing air filtration devices in vehicles, it is possible to remove more than 95% of airborne particles. By decreasing the concentration of airborne particles that could contain the virus being breathed in by workers in critical environments, we reduce the risk of them being infected.’

Khan also said that once the lockdown is lifted ‘all of us’ may need to wear face masks in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning Khan said he is lobbying the Government to change its advice on wearing face coverings to add ‘another layer of protection’. 

Khan said that wearing a non-medical facial covering makes it less likely you may inadvertently give somebody else Covid-19. 

He also confirmed bus travel would be free from Monday as passengers are forced to board using only side doors to protect drivers

Responding to Khan, Grant Shapps said on LBC it was ‘not the right moment’ to ask people to wear masks and said the government would continue to be guided by scientific advice when it came to implementing any recommendations on the use of masks for the general public.  

As many as 16 London bus drivers have died after contracting the coronavirus and the families of the drivers have previously complained about the conditions. 

In total 26 TfL workers have died after testing positive for Covid-19 and one 63-year-old bus driver recently said the network was ‘putting her life at risk’ due to the conditions.   

Khan said that commuters using the underground will ‘not be required to touch in’ with their payment card or device. This is to avoid passengers approaching the driver’s cab, where all buses have a card reader. 

The new measures introduced by the London network come as Khan continues to face increased pressure from Londoners. 

He added: ‘It’s heartbreaking, I’ve had 16 bus drivers who have lost their lives, it’s personal to me. It’s really heartbreaking and my condolences to those families.

‘We’ve gone above and beyond advice we’ve been given by the experts.’

He continued: ‘The evidence I’ve seen is if you wear a non-medical facial covering it doesn’t necessarily limit your changes of catching the virus. What it does do, if you yourself are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, it reduces the chances of you giving the virus to somebody else.

‘And so wherever you can’t keep your social distance you should be wearing a facial covering.’

Medical guidance around wearing masks has been unclear and many have been left wondering whether or not they are an effective tool. 

Scientists are split on masks. Some believe they may help stop asymptotic patients spreading the disease before they know they’re ill.

Others say surgical masks – the most popular – are too thin, loose-fitting and porous, which make it easy for the tiny viral particles to pass through. 

In terms of other ways TfL was trying to protect workers on the network, aside from wearing masks the London Mayor said authorities had introduced protective glass, anti-viral cleaning and passengers sitting away from the driver to keep staff safe, as well as middle-door boarding which will be rolled out from Monday.

He added: ‘I’m confident working with the excellent trade unions, we’ve made sure our public transport is as safe as it can be for both passengers and also our staff as well, who deserve a huge credit for keeping public transport running in these difficult times.’

THE TRUTH ABOUT FACE MASKS: WHAT STUDIES HAVE SHOWN

Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings varies but, recently, and in light of the pandemic of COVID-19, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing. 

A University of Oxford study published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers. 

It’s too early for there to be reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found the thinner, cheaper masks do work in flu outbreaks. 

The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of particles that can – and more importantly, can’t – get though the materials. 

N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and molded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous. 

This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to breathe and work in, but less effective at stopping small particles from entering your mouth and nose. 

Droplets of saliva and mucous from coughs and sneezes are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly tiny – in fact, they’re about 20-times smaller than bacteria. 

For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still contended that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, because there is not proof the gear will protect them from infection – although they may keep people who are coughing and sneezing from infecting others. 

But the Oxford analysis of past studies- which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and didn’t provide statistically less protection than N95 for health care workers around flu patients. 

However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts universally agree that there’s simply no replacement for thorough, frequent hand-washing for preventing disease transmission. 

Some think the masks may also help to ‘train’ people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will just make people do it more, actually raising infection risks.  

If the CDC does instruct Americans to wear masks, it could create a second issue: Hospitals already face shortages of masks and other PPE.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was important to follow the scientific advise when it came to issuing the pubic with guidance for things such as wearing face masks in public.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain he said: ‘The Sage committee has a subcommittee working hard on this to weigh up evidence. 

‘Some say it can do more harm than good. But this needs to be on medical advice, not what a politician has woke up and thought that day.’

Speaking to the BBC he later said: ‘I think that we need to be completely guided by the evidence on this as the Mayor acknowledged in the letter he wrote to me.’

He added ‘it looks like the advantages might be marginal and there can even be times when it’s disadvantageous if they’re not used properly’.

Khan had previously penned a letter to Shapps proposing that the public should wear face masks on public transport.

He claimed Khan admitted that such a measure could be ‘counterproductive’ at the moment .

Shapps said he had been ‘confused’ by Khan’s admission, and said he would be writing back to the London Mayor and highlighting the work Sage is currently doing in its sub committee on this. 

‘Let them tell us which is the best scientific approach because there are pluses and minuses to wearing masks.’ 

A poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton strategies this week found 48 per cent of Britons wanted the government to make wearing a facemask compulsory when lockdown is eased.

Some 54 per cent thought the policy had not been put in place because ministers did not believe it was effective.

However, 37 per cent suggested the government was not implementing the move because there are not enough masks in the UK.

This is while Dr Rachel Clarke yesterday claimed that the use of masks could be dangerous as people may becoming infecting if they touch their masks all of the time.

Khan also highlighted that masks may have to be used by everyone once lock down restrictions were lifted, but Shapps said that any lockdown review would have the science in mind.  

‘We’ve said now that this three-week period will contain a review by the scientists at the end of this month, so that’s actually only two weeks away, whilst they’ll be reviewing this.

‘And I hope we’ll be in a position to provide, well I know we’ll be in a position to provide, greater clarity.’

When it comes to new restrictions in place across the TfL network, the organisation said the drivers were ‘pivitol’ in ensuring that critical workers were able to perform vital roles.  

Despite their ‘pivitol role’ the mother of one bus driver who died from Covid-19 said her son had complained about the conditions he was forced to work under. 

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho was a bus driver in Holloway and his mother Anne Nyack said TfL told him his pay would be cut if he missed work. 

The 36-year-old, who drove the number four bus from Blackfriars to Archway succumbed to the disease at the end of March after fighting it for two weeks.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Shapps said that all guidance involving the use of face masks for the general public would come from scientific evidence

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Shapps said that all guidance involving the use of face masks for the general public would come from scientific evidence 

TfL’s director of bus operations Claire Mann said: ‘Their efforts are nothing short of heroic, and it is essential that we leave no stone unturned when looking to protect them.’ 

TfL trialled the boarding change on 140 buses across nine routes, with the operator saying it was ‘confident’ that the low number of people travelling meant people could keep a safe distance between each other. 

Khan had been slammed for the trial period, with many claiming he was ‘wasting time’ by introducing the measure.

The Mayor of London has faced a barrage of criticism in recent weeks from transport workers who say they are working in dirty conditions while 90 per cent of the capital’s buses and more than half of Tube services continue to run.  

London Mayor Sadiq Khan last night called for it to be made compulsory for people to wear masks in public while the Covid-19 epidemic continues.

Royal Society scientists launch probe into how UK can end lockdown

Royal Society scientists are launching an urgent investigation into how to end the UK’s draconian lockdown and get the country up and running again.

World-leading experts from the prestigious scientific academy will review how other nations have dealt with the pandemic to help come up with its strategy for Britain.

They will review the benefit of face masks, the dangers of letting children go back to school and whether the virus will wane in the warm summer months. Analysis like this would normally take months, if not years. But the scientists will offer advice to the Government in a matter of weeks.   

He said: ‘I am hopeful that the advice from scientists will change. The evidence around the world is that this is effective.

‘I am lobbying our Government, our advisers, to change their advice and I want us to do that sooner rather than later.’

Earlier this month Khan also insisted bus drivers did not need to wear personal protective equipment.

The Mayor’s decision infuriated the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, who said transport staff should stop working if they are not provided with adequate safety equipment. 

Limited use of London’s buses by essential workers had led the number of people travelling to ‘plummet’ by about 85 per cent, TfL added.

Passengers will not need to touch in after boarding and are asked not to approach the driver.

Existing measures to protect drivers and passengers include signage directing people away from seats near drivers, improved protective screens around the cab and regular announcements reminding those on board of the need to maintain social distancing.

TfL said it was also considering creating a ‘completely sealed partition’ between drivers and passengers.

Earlier, a trade union official called for drivers to be issued with personal protective equipment.

And a South London bus driver identified only as Lorraine, 62, said last week in an online video she was ‘proud to do her job’ but ‘frightened to die’ as she begged the Government to do more to help protect transport staff.

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho was a bus driver in Holloway, but died with Covid-19, his mother said he had complained about the conditions he had to work under

Bus driver and church deacon Kenneth Yeboah died from coronavirus on April 1

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, left, was a bus driver in Holloway, but died with Covid-19, his mother said he had complained about the conditions he had to work under. Bus driver and church deacon Kenneth Yeboah, right, died from coronavirus on April 1

It comes as Royal Society scientists are launching an urgent investigation into how to end the UK’s draconian lockdown and get the country up and running again.

World-leading experts from the prestigious scientific academy will review how other nations have dealt with the pandemic to help come up with its strategy for Britain.

They will review the benefit of face masks, the dangers of letting children go back to school and whether the virus will wane in the warm summer months.

Analysis like this would normally take months or years but the scientists will offer advice to the Government in a matter of weeks.

Plateauing infection rates and growing alarm about the economic consequences of lockdown has put pressure on ministers to start phasing out social restrictions.

But Dominic Raab, stepping in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, last night declared the draconian curbs will stay for at least another three weeks.

The Royal Society has set up the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) multi-disciplinary group to come up with the exit strategy.

On its website, it said the investigation had ‘been discussed with and welcomed by Government’.

DELVE, made up of 14 leading experts from the country’s top universities, will give input to the Government through SAGE, its scientific advisory group for emergencies.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk