Scientifically, what exactly is fresh air

Corona pandemic - "People have to get some fresh air"

“Nonsense.” “Absurd.” “Insane.” If Dr. Gerhard Scheuch speaks about the current discussion in the run-up to today's meeting of the Federal Chancellor and the Prime Minister on the Corona situation, he does not mince his words. "There is talk of a tightening of the lockdown and a nationwide curfew - I really fall apart from my beliefs," says the scientist who lives in Halsdorf and is considered one of the world's leading aerosol experts.

He gets angry when it comes to the subject of “curfew”. "This term suggests that it is dangerous outside, but exactly the opposite is the case," emphasizes the 65-year-old, almost desperately. Corona is an indoor problem. People got infected inside. Precisely because coronaviruses attach themselves to the microscopic aerosol particles that can sometimes float in rooms for a very long time and are then inhaled.

The same applies outside: keep your distance

In the fresh air, on the other hand, the infection rate is vanishingly low at less than one percent. “That has been scientifically proven,” emphasizes Scheuch. That's why he doesn't believe in the 15-kilometer rule that takes effect when an incidence of 200 is exceeded. He cannot understand that winter excursion destinations such as Winterberg or the Hoherodskopf are closed. "The risk that people outside are infected with the coronavirus is extremely unlikely." Only if you stand close to each other to talk to each other or through direct droplet transmission when sneezing, infection is possible. Therefore, he is sure to keep your distance outside: 1.5 meters away when talking or wearing a mask would be sufficient as protective measures in the open air, he is sure.

Scheuch never tires of repeating his mantra “people have to get some fresh air” over and over again. In the meantime, this persistence has at least been heard by decision-makers. Both the head of the Robert Koch Institute Professor Lothar Wieler and the Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn asked German citizens in their last press conferences to limit contacts - and if you have to meet someone, this should be done outdoors as best as possible.

Disappointment over

Federal government

For Scheuch, who is in regular contact with Wieler and Spahn, this is only lip service. He is disappointed that the German Aerosol Society's position paper does not seem to have been taken notice of by the government. Also, not a single aerosol expert is represented in the decisive bodies. “You only listen to virologists and medical professionals,” criticized Scheuch.

Blowing device should find Corona super spreaders

The 65-year-old is also disappointed with the German bureaucracy. Because in his Gemünden-based company Bio-Inhalation, he and the Karlsruhe company PALAS developed a device that exposes corona super-spreaders (the OP reported).

The device counts aerosol particles in the exhaled air. Coronaviruses attach themselves to the tiny suspended particles and spread. While a healthy person exhales only a few aerosols, an infectious person emits hundreds of thousands of particles. Scheuch wants to use his device to track down the dangerous “super spreaders” that infect many people at once.

Weeks ago, Scheuch had suggested placing his “blowing devices” in front of old people's homes in order to expose the “super spreaders” before a visit to the home. But it's not that simple in Germany. Clinical tests are needed first. And they're just getting started - in three ways: In Marburg, employees and patients at the Sonnenblick Clinic are supposed to test one of the devices on a regular basis. There you just wait for the approval of the ethics committee. A clinical study has already started in Moers in which corona patients are tested at the clinic - at the same time as PCR tests.

First results: Of around 25 Covid 19 patients, five could be identified as super spreaders. Scheuch is satisfied with this, after all, his device does not recognize whether someone is infected with corona, but it does recognize whether he is exhaling a lot of particles and is therefore potentially contagious in the case of a viral disease. A similar clinical study with corona infected patients is also to start in Frankfurt - there, too, they are still waiting for the ethics committee's OK. Dr. Gerhard Scheuch sees the bureaucracy as a braking evil in pandemic times, in which up to a thousand German citizens die from or with Covid-19 every day. His device might prevent some of these deaths. That is why he recently again appealed to the Federal Minister of Health to buy 200 devices for old people's homes. At the moment the development of his apparatus is not even financially supported by the federal government.

And that brings the physicist back to things that excite him due to a lack of logic. He wonders why retirement and nursing homes have not been equipped with mobile air filters across the board. “A filter device like this in the lounge can reduce the risk of infection by up to 70 percent,” says the researcher.

Great hope in vaccination

For Scheuch it is very clear that only a combination of measures can lead out of the pandemic - in addition to vaccination, of course, in which the 65-year-old has high hopes. In addition to contact restrictions, keeping your distance, regular ventilation of indoor spaces and - if possible - the use of air filter devices, this also includes wearing masks. “Any mask is better than none,” he emphasizes.

FFP2 masks must match

However, Scheuch is critical of the attempt by the Bavarian Prime Minister to make wearing an FFP-2 mask mandatory in public transport and shops. On the one hand, FFP-2 masks are very expensive and therefore not accessible to everyone. On the other hand, they also have to be worn correctly. To make matters worse, there are many “counterfeits” in circulation that do not fulfill the promised protective effect. It is important that there is a CE mark with a four-digit number on the mask. But they often do not offer the protection hoped for, as Scheuch found out through tests. "The best protection against corona infection is and remains the fresh air," he emphasizes once again - and hopes that this scientific knowledge will perhaps be incorporated into the new federal and state resolutions.

Aerosols and corona

What are aerosol particles? There are microscopic particles in the air. An aerosol is a mixture of air and small solid or liquid particles. Coronaviruses attach to aerosol particles and can spread in this way. They can float in the air for up to hours. So someone who enters a non-ventilated room that was previously infected with corona can become infected. Infected people also exhale more particles than healthy ones.

What protects? According to aerol expert Dr. Gerhard Scheuch, the risk of infection is low, especially outdoors. In addition, you have to limit social contacts, keep your distance from other people and wear masks. Regular ventilation of interiors and the installation of air purifiers also reduce the risk of infection, according to Scheuch. The contact time with an infected person also plays a major role. The shorter the time, the lower the risk.

From Nadine Weigel