Is Six Feet Enough For Social Distancing?

New Delhi: For those who are throwing caution to the wind by not wearing face masks and maintaining a safe one metre distance, here is news.

There is growing evidence that the novel coronavirus can travel farther than six feet under some conditions compelling public health experts to reevaluate guidelines for safe social distancing, reported NDTV quoting a team of infectious-disease experts in a new analysis, published in the journal BMJ.

Researchers are saying that six feet is only a start, a warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors.

How should the distance be assessed?

NDTV reported experts as saying that factors such as air circulation, ventilation, exposure time, crowd density, whether people are wearing face masks, and whether they are silent, speaking, shouting or singing should be part of assessing whether six feet is sufficient.

“I think six feet is a fine number, but we need to convey that this is a starting point,” Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering professor who has studied airborne viruses was quoted as saying by NDTV. “Beyond six feet doesn’t mean there’s zero risk.”

Airborne transmission

There is no conclusive evidence of airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“Distance alone will never solve the aerosol problem. If you are in the same room, you can get infected,” reported NDTV quoting a University of Colorado aerosol expert Jose-Luis Jimenez. The infection reached a person 45 feet away at a March choir practice in Washington state, where a singer spread the coronavirus to 52 people.

“Outdoors, distanced and with well-fitted masks,” Jimenez said, “is the only thing close to a silver bullet.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines social distancing as “at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.”

The World Health Organisation has recommended at least one meter, or three feet.

“Infected people, whether they have symptoms or not, are releasing the virus into the air. And you can get it by breathing that in,” Marr was quoted as saying in the NDTV report.

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