The Problem With Perspex: Why Covid Screens Might Not Be Safe

Perspex screens, the type you might see in offices, restaurants or hair and beauty salons, don’t prevent the spread of Covid – and could increase transmissibility, officials have told ministers.

The draft Whitehall document said the transparent plastic screens are often “incorrectly positioned” and could make matters worse by “blocking airflow that helps disperse any virus droplets”. This is despite the fact “screens or barriers” are listed as “additional control measures” in government guidance for offices.

In response, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “The Health and Safety Executive will keep its guidance under review based on the latest evidence, and should that evidence necessitate a change, it would be changed.”

So, have the screens been a waste of time for businesses that have invested in them? Perhaps. Dr Julian Tang, clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, explains: “Perspex screens only block large droplet ‘splatter’ expelled – e.g. during coughing or sneezing, which are too large to inhale anyway – but not the finer aerosols produced by talking and breathing that can float over or around these screens to be inhaled by those behind them – unless the screens extend from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.”

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