According to a new study, people can be infected with the coronavirus in just five minutes, even without contact, from just 20 feet away.
It is generally believed that Covid-19 transmission occurs over much shorter distances, leading to the standard social distance rule of 2 meters applied in countries around the world.
But the new study from South Korea is looking at how, under specific circumstances, coronavirus can be transmitted over far greater distances than previously thought possible for 3 specific cases.
The research, published in the Journal for Korean Medical Science, is based on three outbreaks in the country, including one in a restaurant with no windows and poor ventilation.
It comes after fears that Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out, to Help Out scheme may have led to an increase in the coronavirus due to the risk of people sitting relatively close together in restaurants.
The Korean report was highlighted by an American epidemiologist on Twitter who warned, “there is no way to make indoor restaurants or bars safe, including those outdoor structures that are essentially indoors,” and stressed the importance of wearing masks.
While it looks at only a relatively small number of cases in a country not affected by Covid-19 as hard as others, the team behind the study concludes that better guidelines are needed to deal with the potential risk.
The current official UK government advice in restaurants is “to remind your customers to wear a face cover in any indoor area or where required by law, for example by means of signage or a verbal reminder”.
The official figures on South Korea’s pandemic toll suggest the country has fared much better than the UK and much of the rest of the West.
South Korea is said to have known 536 deaths and 36,332 cases since the outbreak started there with the initial infection on Jan. 20.
That compares to more than 60,000 deaths and 1.67 million cases in Britain to date.
South Korea’s early blockage and testing and tracking system have been credited with quelling the early outbreak, and the country was better prepared than most after previous viral disease experience.
The investigation came about after a number of outbreaks in the country were linked to long-distance transmission of droplets, which deserved further investigation.
In the restaurant case, it was found that the airflow between the person with Covid-19 and the person who caught it may have played a role in the spread.
The report states: “On June 17, there was a newly confirmed COVID-19 case in Jeonju, Korea, which is believed to be carried by droplets 6.5m away from the infector and 5 minutes of exposure in an air-conditioned restaurant.
“It’s important to know how [the illness] is transferred between people in different situations.
In conclusion, droplet transfer can occur at a distance of more than 2 meters if there is direct air flow from an infected person in an indoor environment.
“Therefore, updated guidelines for quarantine and environmental management of COVID-19 are needed to approve an effective treatment drug or vaccine.”