Germany to spend €500m upgrading ventilation systems against virus

Justin Huggler
Mandatory Credit: Photo by CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10668236r) The seating area of the Berliner Ensemble theater shows gaps of removed seats due to coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 03 June 2020. Preparations for a step by step reopening of the Berliner Ensemble (BE) theater are running. For providing distance between spectators, numerous seats have been removed. From 10 June 2020, a couple of theater performances are going to be presented open air in the yard of the Berliner Ensemble theater. Rehearsals for the premiere of Ferdinand von Schirach's 'Gott', under the the direction of dramatic advisor Oliver Reese will begin this week. The premiere is planned for 10 September 2020. Preparations for reopening of the Berliner Ensemble, Berlin, Germany - 03 Jun 2020 - CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10668236r) The seating area of the Berliner Ensemble theater shows gaps of removed seats due to coronavirus measures in Berlin, Germany, 03 June 2020. Preparations for a step by step reopening of the Berliner Ensemble (BE) theater are running. For providing distance between spectators, numerous seats have been removed. From 10 June 2020, a couple of theater performances are going to be presented open air in the yard of the Berliner Ensemble theater. Rehearsals for the premiere of Ferdinand von Schirach's 'Gott', under the the direction of dramatic advisor Oliver Reese will begin this week. The premiere is planned for 10 September 2020. Preparations for reopening of the Berliner Ensemble, Berlin, Germany - 03 Jun 2020 - CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Germany is to spend €500m (£450m) on upgrading ventilation systems in public buildings to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools, universities, public offices and museums will be able to apply for grants of up to €100,000 (£91,000) to retrofit their existing air conditioning or ventilation systems with filters.

The coronavirus is chiefly spread by aerosols exhaled by the infected when they sneeze or cough, and a number of new filtration systems have been developed which can stop most of the microscopic droplets.

The money is only available for public buildings in which large numbers of people gather, such as school auditoriums and theatres.

Germany has something of a national obsession with ventilating rooms and Angela Merkel’s government is promoting the practice as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 file photo, teacher Francie Keller welcomes the pupils of class 3c of the Lankow primary school on their first school day after the summer holidays in Schwerin, Germany. Despite a spike in virus infections, European authorities are determined to send children back to school. (Jens Buettner/DPA via AP, file) - Jens Buettner/DPA
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 file photo, teacher Francie Keller welcomes the pupils of class 3c of the Lankow primary school on their first school day after the summer holidays in Schwerin, Germany. Despite a spike in virus infections, European authorities are determined to send children back to school. (Jens Buettner/DPA via AP, file) - Jens Buettner/DPA

It is customary to open windows in German homes at least twice a day even in the depths of winter and many rental contracts include an obligation to ventilate.

But even in Germany, official government advice to schools to open windows fully every twenty minutes in order to prevent the spread of the virus has caused controversy.

Schools have advised pupils to bring blankets to class and allowed them to wear coats, hats and gloves during lessons.

Few schools, however, are expected to be able to claim under the new scheme as the funds are only available for upgrading existing ventilation systems — something most German schools do not have.

German schools are chronically underfunded and many are reportedly unable to follow the current ventilation advice as classroom windows do not open.

The government will cover up to 40 per cent of the cost of upgrading existing ventilation systems, and museums, theatres and public offices are expected to be the main beneficiaries. Private companies are currently not eligible.