The essential role of refrigeration in the combat against COVID-19


16 April 2020

Statement of the International Institute of Refrigeration calling governments to consider refrigeration-related services as “essential services” in the context of the current health crisis due to COVID-19 

The International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) is the only independent intergovernmental science and technology-based organisation which promotes knowledge of all refrigeration fields, ranging from very low temperature applications to air conditioning via the food cold chain.

With 59 member countries and its network of several hundred renowned experts on 5 continents, the IIR is empowered to speak on behalf of the refrigeration community.

The IIR calls on national governments to consider the various services of refrigeration and air conditioning as “essential services” in the context of the spread of COVID-19 in countless countries around the world.

Over 15 million people are employed worldwide in the refrigeration sector – including air conditioning - which consumes about 20% of the overall electricity used worldwide.

Refrigeration is vital for reducing post-harvest losses and in the preservation of food products.

Air conditioning also plays a key role in the economic and social development of warmer countries and its use is expanding dramatically - especially in the world’s emerging economies - with rising global temperatures.

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In the healthcare sector, refrigeration preserves pharmaceutical products and medicines, especially vaccines. New treatments, such as cryosurgery or cryotherapy, were developed thanks to ultra-low temperature technologies.

Refrigeration is employed in numerous industrial processes such as chemicals, plastics and natural gas liquefaction (LNG).

Deprived of refrigeration, data centres - and the internet - would collapse in minutes.

The various stakeholders in the refrigeration sector – producers, installers, engineers and technicians responsible for equipment servicing and maintenance – all play a major role in insuring the ongoing operation of refrigeration equipment. This is essential in particular in hospitals, nursing homes for the elderly who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as food retail and industries.

The IIR supports the measures governments are taking to guarantee the safety and health of their citizens. However, through this statement, the IIR draws attention to the essential role of refrigeration stakeholders. It calls on governments to allow the ongoing operation of essential services provided by refrigeration stakeholders.

The International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) is an independent intergovernmental science and technology-based organisation promoting refrigeration knowledge and associated technologies that improve quality of life in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner including:

  • Food quality and safety from farm to consumer
  • Comfort in homes and commercial buildings
  • Health products and services
  • Low temperature technology and liquefied gas technology
  • Energy efficiency
  • Use of non-ozone depleting and low global warming refrigerants in a safe manner 

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