Pubs and restaurants are preparing for the return of indoor hospitality and some have availed of Irish made disinfection technology which studies have shown to reduce SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, by 99 per cent.
While measures such as sanitation and ventilation will continue to be used, these devices can offer an extra layer of protection to staff and customers in restaurants and pubs.
Irish made Novaerus disinfection devices are being used nationwide in businesses such as The Bridge 1859, Lemon & Duke, Grogan’s Pub, Kealy’s Pub, the Two Sisters Pub, The Central Bar, Monck’s Green, Olive’s Room, and The Butcher Grill.
The devices are designed at the DCU Alpha Centre and manufactured at a company called Aubren in Portlaoise.
Novaerus at McGreals CEO Deirdre Devitt told BreakingNews.ie: “Novaerus have been around for around a decade, so I suppose from our perspective the technology is tried and tested and has been in predominantly medical settings such as hospitals for most of that time, so really they didn’t jump on the coronavirus bandwagon so to speak, they already had a product that was out there in hospital settings.
“McGreals Group are a pharmacy group based in Leinster, they have around 11 pharmacies, and a primary care centre in Blessington and are building another in Kildare this year.
“At the start of the pandemic, Kilian McGreal, the managing director, came across the devices and wondered about putting them into chemists because obviously he wanted to protect his staff who were going to be frontline workers. As a scientist himself he really liked the technology when he looked into it more.
“He put them into the pharmacies and agreed with Novaerus to take the distribution for Ireland. Fannin Healthcare had the distribution for HSE hospitals and dentists but McGreals have the distribution for businesses outside the HSE. We’ve had a year of rapid growth despite navigating lockdowns.”
Ms Devitt said the devices have been installed in a wide range of sectors, “from the likes of psychotherapists and counsellors who have to have that face-to-face contact in a smaller room, hospitality; pubs, restaurants, bars, to larger corporations with open plan offices.
“Every setting has its challenges but from our perspective not a lot of the buildings in Ireland are well ventilated to start with, but secondly we’re not a substitute for ventilation. We can work with ventilation whether it’s mechanical or an open window or door.”
“Essentially it’s an atmospheric plasma discharge, so that’s like a lightning strike,” she explained. “It’s physics-based rather than chemical-led, what happens basically is it draws the microorganisms or anything bad that’s pulled into the device is exposed directly to the plasma discharge. The air flows over the coils and as a result no harmful by-products are generated and that’s what differentiates this technology from a lot of the other technologies out there.
“For example, an ozone led device can only be used when there is nobody in the building or the room whereas this device can be used 24/7, you’ll find it in hospitals beside newborn babies and critically ill patients.”
Even some churches have availed of the technology to offer extra protection for parishioners.
“We’ve sold across every sector in Ireland, including for the confession box which was probably one of our most interesting sales as churches are planning to reopen and there’s a real demand for confession.
“From the biggest companies to the smallest companies they’ve really taken up this technology. From an employer’s perspective you just want to mitigate all potential risks in accordance with your other safety protocols.”
The company points to studies that have shown the 99.997 per cent reduction rate from SARS-CoV-2 particles in the air. The studies were conducted in “labs worldwide”, while the disinfection devices also work against mumps, measles, and the flu, and airborne bacteria and spores.
Ms Devitt explained that Novaerus was initially tested against a "coronavirus surrogate" because the live virus was initially only accessible to scientists working on the vaccine.
It was tested against SARS-CoV-2 this year.
“This year the technology was tested after Novaerus queued for a year with a lab in the United States, against Sars-Covid 2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and that demonstrated a reduction of 99.997 per cent in the air which was a very positive result. There’s a lot of science and data to back up the technology.”
While any additional costs for struggling businesses will be difficult, there are three different Novaerus disinfection devices on different price scales.
“We have three devices, the smallest of which is the size of a shoe box. It’s priced at €1,500, they’re very versatile and can sit on a desk, it’s for smaller offices and treatment rooms and some private customers, such as elderly couples for their own safety with people coming in,” Ms Devitt explained.
“The mid-sized device is very versatile, it’s for a classroom or a lot of pubs and restaurants are taking this device. That’s €2,500, but over five years with potentially thousands benefiting it’s probably the price of a bottle of water a day. The largest device is the Defend, 'the beast' we call it, that processes a tonne of air per hour and the likes of Noyeks Newmans showrooms in Ireland have this device, some office spaces in Dublin too, that’s €12,000, but that’s the ultimate.”
The largest device was used for a recent nightclub pilot event in Belgium, where four devices were used for a government-backed event with 350 people in attendance.
Ms Devitt added: “If you think about the billions spent around the world on surface cleaning and hand sanitiser, obviously those measures are still necessary but if the incidences of transmission from touching surfaces is less than 1 in 10,000 then we really do need to acknowledge the dominance of airborne spread, therefore we think businesses should be supported to purchase safe technologies like this Irish technology. Don’t massage it and move it around, obliterate it, make the air safe for staff, customers and clients.”
The Novaerus devices have been rolled out in hospital, business and private settings in 65 countries.
Jennifer Naughton and her business partner Krishan Kant own Veda and Tamra, restaurants in Cabinteely village, Dublin.
They use the devices in both kitchen and dining rooms, and both restaurants have been doing takeaway during the lockdowns.
Ms Naughton told BreakingNews.ie: “They’re very simple to use, you can take them as a tabletop unit, or you can wall mount them. There’s no extra cost for installation or anything like that, for us, it’s working very well. We went for smaller units in the kitchen and then went for bigger units for dining area.
“For businesses to reopen I think it would be a no-brainer if there is a support put in place or a grant towards a disinfection device to be implemented into premises. The larger units are expensive, but it’s a once-off cost.
“Even in the winter when you can’t have windows and doors open, for us, it’s an excellent system, it’s destroying the viruses by destroying the DNA and eradicating it from the air.”
She added: “If we implement everything together; disinfection devices, CO2 monitors, sanitation stations - if we collectively put these things together it should be an opportunity to reopen.
“We went ahead with it because we’re happy to implement everything with a view to reopening. They’re simple, safe and can be left on 24/7 to disinfect air.”
Noel Anderson is managing director of Lemon & Duke and The Bridge 1859 in Dublin and chair of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA).
He told BreakingNews.ie: “From all my research with the LVA, what everyone was looking for was customer safety, that’s their number one ask to return to pubs, so I just see this as an additional safety tool, that our pubs have gone that step further.
“I’m very keen to keep my staff as safe as possible and these are an additional tool to do that. The guys in the kitchen staff are in a closed environment, it’s brilliant for them.
“There hasn’t been a big enough conversation about this. One of the things in my role as the chair of the LVA, I’m also responsible for the nightclubs of Dublin and this is potentially a solution to get them open as well.”
Like Ms Naughton, he feels there would be a higher uptake of disinfection devices with grants.
“Some publicans are tight for money, one publican wrote on our post about them, ‘if you have the money it’s great’.
“That’s a valid point, I would certainly encourage the Government to provide grants towards this.
“Some publicans are in better shape than others. More pubs are doing this and if it’s something they can afford customers will certainly appreciate it.”