Floor tiles, signs and posters encourage us to “keep social distance”, while esoteric one-way systems prevent us from passing each other. Like some of the men’s toilet urinals, the sink is taped in case you get too close while doing a very important hand wash. Perhaps to mitigate Covid’s risk of standing next to someone while peeing. And it’s in my office.
It is a photograph that can be seen in workplaces and public places nationwide.
The government’s advice is that for almost a year we should all be at least 2 meters away from people we don’t live with.
The idea is to prevent virus infection if they are far enough apart. And if we can’t do that, there are always those plastic screens that look like they were built everywhere to protect us. But is it that simple?
Social distance policies have been instigated by many companies at the beginning of the pandemic. And when Britain breaks out of the blockade, they remain the same.
But science has advanced and experts have been urging governments to rethink their approaches for months – warning that these measures alone cannot prevent infection. A leading public health researcher spoke to the newspaper and went on to brand many rules that were “meaningful but almost useless.”
Last week we revealed how the workplace ignores UK public health service guidance by relying on temperature checks that proved inaccurate and ineffective in picking up Covid’s cases. did.
Can a similar problem occur with a one-way system and fixing with a 2-meter rule? Do you give us the illusion of safety while diverting us from real risk?
Part of the problem lies in the fact that, like colds and flu, it was initially believed that Covid was transmitted primarily through coughing and sneezing. When a small spray of water that carries the coronavirus is discharged in this way, it can land on and infect others. However, these droplets also obey the law of gravity. Move only about a meter before falling to the ground.
Wearing a mask is an important way to reduce the risk of this type of infection. The mask prevents water droplets from draining through your mouth or nose. This was especially relevant when it became clear that many people with Covid had very few, if any, symptoms, but could still be infected.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that water droplets are not the only way to spread the disease. Infection also results from so-called aerial exposure to the virus.
As experts warn, microscopic virus particles can remain suspended in the air for hours like smoke. Outdoors, these particles are quickly blown away.
However, indoors, without adequate ventilation, the “smoke” of this virus accumulates rapidly.
Again, the mask can alleviate this to some extent and absorb some of these particles. But they are not 100% effective. This means that staying in the same room as the person holding the Covid for a long time poses a risk no matter how far away you are.
A lot of research on superspreading events is evidence of this.
In March of last year, it was reported that 50 people who participated in chorus practice for an hour and a half in Washington State, USA, were diagnosed with the virus. Two of them died.
And there is an outbreak in the meat factory. Researchers studying a slaughterhouse in Germany, where about 1,500 workers were infected with the virus, suggested that cold, aging air conditions could move coronavirus particles over 26 feet.
In December, a security guard at a quarantine hotel occurred in Adelaide, Australia. After examining CCTV footage, it was concluded that he stood outside the room of a Covid-positive couple and caught the virus. The director of health said it was due to poor ventilation. The list goes on and on.
In one study, researchers had a young woman who tested positive for Covid but had mild symptoms and was driving a car equipped with a virus detection sensor.
Two hours after she left, it was still picking up virus particles in the air.
This probably explains why during the first wave of the pandemic, a man who worked as a taxi driver in the UK was found to be most likely to die in Covid.
In October, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on Covid infections, recognizing that aerial infections can occur in closed, poorly ventilated spaces.
A month later, more than 200 scientists signed an open letter, urging all public health authorities to recognize the potential for Covid-19 to spread in the air. They highlighted a number of studies that proved that the virus could easily move over 30 feet.
Studies suggest that due to the small size of these particles, they settle in the air at a height of about 5 feet.
Last week, the government updated its “hands, face, space” slogan to include “fresh air.” It acknowledges that being outdoors has the lowest risk of infection. But what about the air in offices, shops, and soon pubs and restaurants?
Cass Noakes, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Leeds building who campaigned to change the slogan, warns: Social distance is important because being close to an infected person increases the risk. But it deals only with some of the risks.
“In poorly ventilated areas indoors, virus particles accumulate and we inhale them.”
The Health and Safety Executive states that the law requires employers and employers to open windows or install mechanical ventilation (fans and ducts that draw in fresh air from the outside).
“The most dangerous places are places where there is no mechanical ventilation or access to open windows and doors,” says Professor Noakes.
“Pubs, restaurants and other small businesses have a lot of space like this.
“Wearing a mask in these settings can help a bit, but it doesn’t completely reduce the risk.”
Without adequate ventilation, these social distance stickers, one-way systems, and screens that split the desk – “Oh, the magic screen,” Professor Noakes’ laughter – are pretty wasteful.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh, a public health expert at Oxford University, was even more critical of many social distance measurements.
She states: ‘Keeping around the sink and urinal works only if the mode of infection is limited to droplets. The virus is levitating. Ventilation is needed to reduce infection. “
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