Ventilation experts warn standards set for Dutch restaurants are too low
The latest coronavirus advice from the Dutch government emphasised the importance of proper ventilation at home and at the office or in schools, but also in any public indoor space - including museums, shops, and restaurants. But a number of experts are concerned about the quality of ventilation in bars and restaurants in the Netherlands, saying it doesn’t meet standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ventilation standards for Dutch catering industry
A law change that took place on July 1 adjusted the ventilation standards for the Dutch catering industry, lowering them considerably in comparison to before the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of being required to let in fresh air every 10 minutes, restaurants and bars are only required to do it once every hour.
The new standard set by Dutch law is far below the requirements set by the WHO, which recommends ensuring an air exchange of at least 10 litres per second per person in indoor areas where people gather. In the Netherlands, bars and restaurants are only required to ensure an air exchange of two litres for existing buildings and four litres for new builds.
Role of ventilation in limiting spread of coronavirus
Speaking to the NRC, ventilation experts called this change irresponsible and incomprehensible, particularly when taking the importance of proper ventilation into account for limiting the spread of coronavirus.
Professor of Building Services Innovation at TU Delft, Atze Boerstra, called the new standards outlined by the Dutch government “absurdly low from an international point of view.” Bert Brunekeef from Utrecht University pointed out that ventilation standards are traditionally set in order to prevent strong / unpleasant odours, not to combat the spread of infectious diseases.
Meanwhile, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) emphasises that there is no scientific research to back up the efficacy of the ventilation standards set by the WHO, and that the standards they advise are “high compared to what is common.” In spite of this, the OMT advises the Dutch catering industry to follow the earlier, stricter recommendations for the time being.