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Coronavirus, the safe distance between people

Coronavirus, the safe distance between people

April 06, 2020
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We have one more weapon against Coronavirus than ever before. In fact, we have on our side the great scientific development that, over the years, has progressed, has been enriched with more and more powerful and sophisticated tools. And it is precisely from science that a very interesting news came about the behavior of the new coronavirus and that, if confirmed, could change some WHO and government guidelines.

Coronavirus, how far from a person is infection possible?

To date, 1 meter is the distance between people considered safe, beyond which infection is not possible. In fact, coronavirus is transmitted through salivary droplets. These droplets, emitted by people when they speak, cough or sneeze, do not travel for greater distances. However, some researches have questioned this data, although, it should be anticipated, the studies are still a few and much debated. One of these studies was published a few days ago in the prestigious JAMA by a team from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Bourouiba et al). In the research, the fluid dynamics laboratory of disease transmission investigated what happens when you sneeze or cough. In particular, in addition to the droplets that fall at short distances, gaseous clouds also form that catch the droplets within them and that can travel up to 8 meters. This gaseous cloud slows down evaporation and the droplets, in this way, resist in the air more than if they were alone. However, as pointed out by the same study, no research has currently analyzed what happens with the gaseous cloud in presence of COVID-19 but is believed that it should follow the same behavior. A criticism that has been put forward is that the viral load can be significantly reduced and that the real question is not how far the saliva droplets can go but how far the droplets can travel still remaining a threat. Perhaps a question was answered by a letter sent by the United States National Academy of Sciences addressed to the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this letter, the scientists point out that the new coronavirus was found in air samples collected 1.8 meters away from people.

Coronavirus, in the light of these data, what is the safety distance to maintain?

Scientists are currently evaluating the data just exposed but probably, if these are confirmed, the safety distance of 1 meter will be extended to 2-3 meters, as it is already in America and in some regions in Italy. In any case, as communicated by the information agencies, the WHO in these hours has entrusted a commission of experts with the evaluation of the latest research to modify, in case, the guidelines regarding social distancing, increasing the distance between people considered safe, and the use of masks, which could be considered useful for more people to use.

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