Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group minutes: 14 December 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 14 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Tim Sharpe, University of Strathclyde


  • Victoria Sanderson, Health and Safety Executive
  • Dr Maria Rossi, Public Health Scotland (items 1 to 3)
  • Dr Carole McRae, Public Health Scotland (PHS)
  • Professor Cath Noakes, University of Leeds
  • Christoph Ackermann, BDP Architectural Design and Engineering
  • Professor Gill Hubbard, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Professor Vittal Katikireddi, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Stephen Reicher, St Andrew’s University to (items 1 to 4)
  • Dr Chris Iddon, The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
  • Alan Johnston, BE-ST
  • Fiona Richardson, COSLA
  • Patrick Mackie, Local Authority Environmental Health

Scottish Government attendees

  • John Harden, Deputy National Clinical Director (guest)
  • Dinker Bhardwaj, Head of Business Support Policy and Strategy, Directorate for Economic Development (guest)
  • Prof Linda Bauld, Chief Social Policy Advisor
  • Judith Ainsley, Head of Covid Policy Unit, Covid Ready Society
  • Morag Angus, Chief Surveyor
  • Katherine McIsaac, Joint Head of Strategy and Insight, Directorate For Communications And Ministerial Support
  • Natalie Neilson, Head of Healthier and Covid Marketing, Directorate For Communications And Ministerial Support (item 5)
  • Healthier and Covid Marketing Official, Directorate For Communications And Ministerial Support
  • Caroline Welsh, Policy Manager, Environmental Quality, Directorate for Environment and Forestry
  • Thomas Lennon, Construction Professional and Technical Author, Building Standards, Directorate for Local Government and Housing
  • Covid Ready Society Policy Officials


  • Dr Alice Street, University of Edinburgh
  • Stephen Long, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Marion McCormack, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society
  • Elizabeth Sadler, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society


  • Covid Ready Society Policy Official

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed members to the fourth meeting of the COVID Adaptations Expert Advisory Group and advised a few Scottish Government (SG) policy colleagues would be attending as observers. 

Agree minute of previous meeting

An SG official confirmed the minutes from meeting two have now been published on the Group webpage.

Members were invited to comment on or propose corrections to the minutes of meeting three. No comments were raised therefore the minute was agreed and will be published on the Group webpage.

State of the pandemic

PHS provided a state of the pandemic update and noted that prevalence of COVID-19 is currently stable and the latest ONS Infection Survey data suggests the estimated number of people testing positive for COVID-19 was around 1 in 60.

The overall picture suggests that Omicron is the dominant variant and that vaccination continues to hold strong. COVID-19 will continue to be monitored to identify any need to change interventions.

Members discussed messaging around COVID-19, particularly the importance of ventilation alongside other mitigations such as staying at home if unwell and hand hygiene. An SG official highlighted the Stay Well This Winter marketing campaign previously discussed by the Group which features ventilation messaging, as well as refreshed ventilation guidance for domestic settings and businesses and organisations recently published on the SG website. PHS also highlighted new cold weather advice, developed in collaboration with NHS Inform and aimed at the general public which emphasises the importance of ventilation, particularly when receiving visitors.

Ventilation and the use of CO2 monitors

Summary of interim meeting on CO2 monitoring

The Chair provided a summary of the interim meeting held on 1 December 2022 focused on ventilation and the use of CO2 monitors. The meeting included a presentation from Professor Cath Noakes (CN) on the Bradford schools trial study looking at how display monitors can help with ventilation provision in UK classrooms and whether changes can be sustained over time. Members discussed the potential sectors and settings where CO2 monitoring could be implemented. A short discussion was also held on the concept of observatories; a series of representative sample buildings monitored over long periods of time to provide data on performance, environmental conditions, behaviour and other factors.

Members agreed that CO2 monitoring is a positive step and that it can highlight problem areas and prompt people to take action to improve ventilation, but it is not a solution to poor ventilation in itself. Members emphasised the importance of information and guidance with clear steps to take to address poor ventilation, and agreed that guidance from authoritative bodies can hold greater weight.

The idea of rolling out CO2 monitoring pilots in different public settings was discussed as a way to gather evidence and data on indicators of poor ventilation and encourage measures to address it. Members also highlighted the opportunity to understand motivations and desire to improve poor ventilation from an organisation or business point of view.


Professor Cath Noakes provided an overview of the indoor air quality (IAQ) observatories funded by the Future Urban Ventilation Network running from September 2020 to August 2023. The long term IAQ data will help to understand health impacts, climate impacts, and support future policy on urban and building design.

CN highlighted two main approaches to observatories; long term duration with widespread monitoring, or more targeted, short term campaigns. CN explained observatories can be resource intensive with a long term commitment required and sustained funding, on top of initial capital to fund sensors and data processes.

Professor Linda Bauld highlighted the work of the Standing Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and the opportunity for the group to look at the concept of observatories to help understand future risks from pandemics.

Members also discussed the opportunity to set up observatories through citizen’s science project, and to better understand the behavioural dimension in terms of understanding of air quality, behaviour in private spaces and support for clean air policies.

Update on Business Ventilation Fund evaluation

An SG official provided an overview of the Business Ventilation Fund (BVF); a £25 million fund to improve ventilation in business premises and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. A total of 1,363 applications were received, of which 577 were accepted (42%), resulting in the purchase of 1,647 unique ventilation items. The evaluation report was published on 16 December 2022 and looks at how the fund could be improved if funding was made available in the future.

An SG official highlighted that there are no current plans to run the BVF again in its current state and that we are keen to capture the learning so that if a similar model of fund was to be developed in the future improvements could be made.

Members discussed the reimbursement model; highlighting this as a straightforward way to handle the process, however recognised that it requires motivated organisations and businesses to make changes proactively.

Long COVID – John Harden, Deputy National Clinical Director

John Harden (JH), Deputy National Clinical Director, attended the group to discuss Long COVID due to previous interest amongst members. JH explained Long COVID is an umbrella terms for symptoms persisting beyond four weeks following a COVID infection. Those experiencing Long COVID are split into two groups; those who experienced a severe episode of COVID infection, and those who did not experience a severe episode of COVID infection but have persistent symptoms, which in both groups can be debilitating in some cases.

JH answered a number of questions from group members including the numbers experiencing Long COVID, what it can tell us about the state of the pandemic and whether certain groups at more at risk. JH explained that the main source of data on the numbers experiencing Long COVID is self reporting via the ONS Infection Survey so exact numbers are unknown although it is estimated that just under 200,000 people in Scotland are affected.

JH highlighted the action being delivered on Long COVID, including £3 million delivered to health boards across Scotland to deliver services that meet the needs of patients e.g. NHS Lothian collaborating with Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland to deliver 1:1 support and guidance via ‘Tailored Talks’.

Members discussed communication around Long COVID and agreed that it adds weight to the messaging about staying well and avoiding COVID infection where possible e.g. getting vaccinated to increase protection.

JH emphasised that the work of the COVID Adaptations Expert Advisory Group will benefit all e.g. ventilation and better indoor air quality.

Any other business, next meeting and close

The Chair thanked members for their time and valuable contributions, and noted the next meeting is scheduled to be held at the end of January.

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