A new report suggests that the two metre social distancing rule, put in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus isn't always a large enough distance. Instead, the research, published in the British Medical Journal, says a preferable - or more effective - number in some circumstances would be around the eight metre mark.
The study argues that the two metre rule is over-simplified and that different spaces could benefit from different measures being put into place. For example, they suggest that venues such as bars and nightclubs (which are seen as high risk) would be wise to employ an eight metre gap between patrons, whereas lower-risk settings could reduce that.
It also adds that small droplets containing COVID-19 can travel much further than two metres – but there are lots of other factors at play when it comes to how the disease is spread. One instance where the virus travels further than two metres, they write, is when gas clouds are created by somebody who is breathing out, singing, coughing or sneezing, making the droplets move faster, going up to eight metres within a few seconds.
"[Six to eight metres] would provide greater protection in the highest risk settings but also greater freedom in lower risk settings, potentially enabling a return towards normality in some aspects of social and economic life," write the study authors, headed up by clinical researcher Nicholas Jones.
Levels of ventilation, if people are wearing face masks and whether or not the venue is an indoor or outdoor space are also important to consider when working out an adequate social distancing gap, they add.
The study also references the COVID-19 patient's viral load, how long another person is exposed to them for, and how vulnerable said other person is to infection, as factors to consider when looking at how the virus spreads. Essentially, they seem to be saying that although it's important to keep an adequate distance from others, especially those who are unwell, it's not the only thing to keep in mind. It's a welcome reminder that having a face covering not only helps to protect yourself, but others too.
"[Social distancing] should be seen only as one part of a wider public health approach to containing the pandemic. It should be used in combination with other strategies to reduce transmission risk, including hand washing, regular surface cleaning, protective equipment and face coverings."
Experts have also recently discussed how flushing the toilet could spread the virus, telling the general public to be vigilant with hygiene and keeping the lid closed.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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