Is it possible to ventilate and stop a future COVID-like pandemic?
CivMin Distinguished Lecture Series
by Prof. Yuguo Li
Chair Professor of Building Environment
Department of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Hong Kong
Although airborne route for SARS-CoV-2 was recognized in early 2021, more than a year into the pandemic, we would have expected that the transmission chains should have been intercepted by improved ventilation by now, but instead the pandemic continued, worsened, and caused many more deaths. The long-range transmission was very likely predominant, and transmission in insufficiently ventilated spaces might have sustained the pandemic, particularly for the Delta and Omicron variants. A predominant short-range airborne route would probably not sustain a high transmissivity as seen from the Omicron outbreaks in late 2022 in China. I shall explore the history of our understanding of respiratory infection transmission, challenges in defining dilution requirement, improving ventilation, a new concept of effective dilution and future research needs.
Yuguo Li is a Chair Professor of Building Environment at Department of Mechanical Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong. Li was a Principal Research Scientist and the team leader of indoor environments at CSIRO Australia prior to 2000. He studied at Shanghai Jiaotong University, Tsinghua University and Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Currently, his team focuses on required dilution for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infection, while exploring the design forms and technologies for buildings and cities for carbonization by 2050. His work led to the findings of the roles played by airflow in the 2003 Amoy Gardens SARS outbreak and in a few outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2. His team also explored the surface touch network and its roles in fomite transmission of infection. He is a member of WHO IPC GDG for COVID-19. Currently, he serves as co-chair of the Working Group for the WHO-led global technical consultation on the transmission of respiratory pathogens through the air.