The Welsh Government has confirmed new technology used to improve air quality will not be used in schools, colleges or universities until more tests have been carried out.
On Monday, August 30, Education Minister Jeremy Miles announced plans to spend more than £6m on new technology, of which £3.3m would be spent on 1,800 ozone disinfecting machines – one for every school, college and university in Wales.
The machines, which have been developed by Swansea University with Welsh Government funding, can be used to quickly disinfect classrooms when clusters of Covid-19 or other viruses are identified.
But plans to introduce the machines were criticised by both the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, with concerns raised over safety.
But the Welsh Government has confirmed the machines will not be used until tests have been carried out and a decision has been made by its Technical Advisory Group.
South Wales East MS Laura Anne Jones, who is the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, said: “Whilst I welcome this apparent u-turn by Labour ministers, I find it absolutely staggering that they didn’t seek advice from scientists before making an announcement.
“Making a rash decision to introduce these toxic chemical-spraying machines, which could have a seriously damaging impact on our youngsters’ heath, without talking to experts is quite frankly a reckless move.
“Ministers need to publish the advice from experts, along with any risk assessments undertaken, for everyone to see before moving forward with this controversial project.”
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru’s Education Spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said: “What certainty have they been given that this brand-new technology – that hasn’t been fully trialled yet – is safe to use in these settings?”
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He added: “Welsh Government should be doing everything they can to ensure cleaner air in schools. But this should not mean the introduction of potentially very dangerous machines when other methods of air purification are already tried, tested – and much more cost-effective.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Protecting children and young people from coronavirus is a top priority for us. We have made significant funding available for measures to monitor ventilation in schools, colleges and universities and reduce the risks of airborne transmission of Covid 19.
“This investment includes the installation of over 30,000 CO2 sensors for schools and educational settings in Wales. We have also considered the use of ozone machines to see if they can play a role in reducing disinfection times.
Our Technical Advisory Group will now consider the results from the early trials of these machines and provide further advice on their use within education settings before any procurement process begins.”
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