The 6-feet rule for social distancing might not be enough, says study

Social distancing has been touted as the key when it comes to covid-19 prevention but is it enough? Here’s what a fresh study has to say.
Practice social distancing. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 10 May 2021, 11:56 am IST
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When it comes to covid-19 prevention, there are only two mantras that are echoing in the world right now. One is washing your hands frequently and the second is maintaining social distancing. 

A study published by the journal Science about a month ago claimed that countries like The United States may need to endure social distancing measures until 2022 to get a win over coronavirus. Since then a lot of research has been on figuring out the right way to practice social distancing, which usually includes maintaining a six-feet distance

Unfortunately, a more recent study claims that this mandatory six-feet distance might not be enough and that we may need to be even further apart in order to prevent catching SARS-CoV-2.   

In a paper published in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers Talib Dbouk and Dimitris Drikakis discovered that even in a light breeze of 4 kph, saliva travels 18 feet in just 5 seconds. This finding makes the six-feet rule null and void. 

According to researchers, we need to understand covid-19 transmission better
“The droplet cloud will affect both adults and children of different heights,” Drikakis said. “Shorter adults and children could be at higher risk if they are located within the trajectory of the travelling saliva droplets.”

According to researchers we need to study how saliva travels with air when someone coughs or sneezes. There are many factors that affect how saliva droplets travel, including: the size and number of droplets; how they interact with one another and the surrounding air as they disperse and evaporate; how heat and mass are transferred; and the humidity and temperature of the surrounding air.

Researchers have designed a computation mechanism to study the state of every saliva droplet moving through the air in front of a coughing person. According to them the effects of humidity, dispersion forces, interactions of saliva and air, and how the droplets change from liquid to vapour and evaporate matters a lot.

productivity during work from home
Social distancing can be a double-edged sword, guys. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“Each cell holds information about variables like pressure, fluid velocity, temperature, droplet mass, droplet position etc.,” Dbouk said. 

 “The purpose of the mathematical modelling and simulation is to take into account all the real coupling or interaction mechanisms that may take place between the main bulk fluid flow and the saliva droplets, and between the saliva droplets themselves”, he added.

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Researchers also threw some light on how temperature impacts the transmission. They said that the following things affect a lot in the movement of saliva particles:

1. Whether you are indoors or outdoors
2. Whether there is an air-conditioning in the room or not

Also, listen:

“This work is vital, because it concerns health and safety distance guidelines, advances the understanding of spreading and transmission of airborne diseases, and helps form precautionary measures based on scientific results,” concluded Drikakis.

So, even if you have started interacting with people and are back to work please ensure that you wear a mask at all times and stay away from crowded places at least for a while to prevent covid-19.

(With inputs from ANI)

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