Kilian McGreal: “We felt that installing the devices in our outlets was the right thing to do in terms of going the extra mile to protect staff and customers”
By the time the St Patrick’s Day festival was cancelled in early March, Kilian McGreal knew what was coming. As Covid-19 began to bite down on businesses and communities, the owner of the McGreal’s Pharmacy group moved quickly, managing to secure a bulk supply of the PPE equipment he knew his staff and customers would soon need.
In addition to stocking up on masks and hand sanitizer, McGreal’s became one of the first businesses in Ireland to install perspex screens in their 11 outlets across Leinster. They then implemented a range of measures, novel at the time but all too familiar now: one customer at a time, card payments only, spaced-out queuing, rigorous surface decontamination.
“The new rules took a little getting used to but everyone was reassured, both customers and our hard-working staff,” says McGreal. “People got the hang of things and business remained steady. We had taken steps to maintain hand and surface hygiene and then I decided to close the loop by addressing the third crucial element – air.”
The Dublin-based air disinfection specialists Novaerus had approached McGreal’s to demonstrate its range of medical-grade air disinfection units. The company explained how viruses such as Covid-19 can be transported along air currents, dispersing over absolute undefined distances and swirling in the air, where they can be inhaled. This process is known as ‘aerosol’ transmission.
“One of the transmission methods for Covid-19 is respiratory droplets that are caused by people simply breathing or coughing and sneezing, which is why we keep our (social) distance, wash our hands and disinfect surfaces,” says McGreal. “But many health authorities are considering the possibility that the virus also travels through the air and can infect people who breathe it in,” says McGreal.
The scientist who spearheaded the discovery of the Ebola virus warned that the coronavirus was highly infectious due to the amount of virus in the throat and that it was something you could catch by talking to somebody.
As part of the prevention process, a ‘kill’ technology is required to disinfect air, not just a filtering process. Novaerus technology does just that – kills airborne decontaminates including viruses.
“We have patented a non-selective killing technology that combines rapid air disinfection and purification in a single portable device,” says Michael Corr of Novaerus, which is part of the WellAir organisation, also headquartered in Ireland.
“Our devices use a patented ultra-low energy plasma technology that laboratory studies have shown eliminates 99.99 per cent of MS2 Bacteriophage, a surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19,” says Corr.
Manufactured in Portlaoise, the Novaerus devices are compact (the entry-level model is about the size of a shoebox), and can easily be moved from room to room – you simply plug and play.
“The units are completely safe with no harmful by-products, they require little maintenance, and use less energy than a 40-watt light bulb,” says Corr. “We manufacture three products; the NV200, the NV800 and the top-of-the-line Defend 1050. The technology has been independently tested by more than 30 laboratories and credited with a kill rate of 99.99 per cent on airborne viruses and bacteria.”
For any Irish business looking to reboot as part of the post-Covid economy, this is eye-catching news.
Around Ireland, shops and offices, schools and creches, doctors’ and dental surgeries, solicitors’ firms, tech companies, healthcare facilities, factories, anywhere in fact that large numbers of people share an indoor space, are all grappling with issues of safety, hygiene, and reassurance.
The role of clean, disinfected air in preventing the spread of Covid-19 might be catching on in Ireland, but elsewhere it is a well-established fact of life and business.
“Novaerus technology has already been recognised and officially registered by Chinese health authorities; the Irish-made devices are installed in 4 out of 5 ambulances in Seoul, South Korea, while the Karolinska Institute in Sweden (which issues the Nobel Prize) is currently undergoing an intense study. All told, Novaerus products are deployed in 58 countries worldwide,” says Corr.
Here, Novaerus technology is helping Irish companies in multiple sectors to get back to work.
“We felt that installing the devices in our outlets was the right thing to do in terms of going the extra mile to protect staff and customers,” says McGreal. “But I also felt it would help the business get through a difficult time and that hunch was 100 per cent correct.
“During Covid-19, our group traded significantly above the industry average,” he adds. “We also saw a huge growth in online engagement, with the Novaerus products a major source of interest and an actual point of differentiation in the hygiene space.
“It started to occur to us that not only home users but other businesses may benefit from the technology,” says McGreal. “The Novaerus technology can not only help with the current viral outbreak but reduces all indoor air contaminates including bacteria, fungi, spores, etc. This led to a conversation with Novaerus about us taking on national distribution for them, and here we are.”
As official supplier, McGreals have sold to industries and clients in health food, pubs and restaurants, professional services (offices), retail and shopping centres, veterinary, cosmetic surgery, dermatology, opticians, solicitors, undertakers, and other pharmacies.
One business is The Temple Bar Company, which represents one of the busiest and most trafficked areas in the country. Martin Harte, CEO says: “Getting Temple Bar back open for business in a safe and compliant manner is paramount for us. We have done extensive research on what we can do to reach the highest safety and hygiene standards. As a group, we reviewed a wide range of Irish designed and developed products and we chose Novaerus as they exceed our requirements by increasing the air sanitation of the premises and the overall wellbeing of the environment for our members employees and their customers.”
Manufacture of the devices has increased substantially at Novaerus’ Portlaoise facility as demand for the technology surges. And as more businesses both at home and abroad look at ways of safely opening offices and other indoor spaces, interest seems likely to grow.
“In terms of killing the virus in the air, in our opinion there’s nothing out there that comes close,” says McGreal. “Traditionally, surface and hand decontamination has been the standard but now on a global scale, Novaerus is closing the infection prevention loop by adding air dis-infection as the final piece of the jigsaw.”