Covid-19 Can Pass Between People Wearing Face Masks One Metre Apart, Study Finds
Covid-19 can pass between people who are more than one metre apart and wearing face masks, a study has found.
The research - conducted by the University of Nicosia in Cyprus - found that airborne droplets will typically travel twice as far without a mask, and therefore they can play an important role in fighting the spread of the disease. However, some droplets may still travel more than 1.2m (4ft).
What's more, repeated coughing - a common symptom of coronavirus - was found to significantly diminish the efficacy of face masks.
The study was carried out using a computer model, which performed precise simulations using numerical data that factored in potential weather conditions, air turbulence, and the skin and mouth temperatures of the person coughing.
The tests were based on a standard surgical mask and the droplets in the video above were scaled up by a factor of 600, so you can actually see them.
Professor Dimitris Drikakis and Dr Talib Dbouk, the authors of the study - which is published in Physics of Fluids - said the findings were 'alarming'.
They said: "The results are alarming. Even when a mask is worn, some droplets can travel a considerable distance during periods of mild coughing.
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"Although masks will reduce droplet transmission, we should not ignore that several droplets will be transmitted away from the mask. The use of a mask will not provide complete prevention from airborne droplet transmission."
The findings come amid growing pressure on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to relax the two-metre social distancing rule, in line with other countries, to enable businesses such as those in the hospitality sector to reopen.
On Sunday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the issue will be 'comprehensively reviewed', with scientists and economists called in to take a 'fresh look' before the Government makes a decision on the rule.
The World Health Organisation recommends keeping a distance of at least one metre to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, and organisations including the British Beer & Pub Association have warned that if it stays at two, only around one third of pubs will be able to reopen later this year.
Speaking on Sky News, Sunak said: "The Prime Minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule.
"Now we have made good progress in suppressing the virus, we're at a different stage of the epidemic than we were at the beginning, and that enables us to take a fresh look at this.
"Obviously many other countries around the world use a different rule. We have seen a couple of countries recently - Norway and Denmark - have moved from two metres to something less.
"It is important we look at it comprehensively in the round and that is what we will do urgently."
It is thought the review will aim to report back by 4 July, when pubs and restaurants could open in England.
Featured Image Credit: PA