The commonly used 1.5 meter rule does very little indoors to prevent the spread of the corona virus. That is the conclusion of researchers from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is much more important to look at wearing mouth masks, ventilation and what a room is used for.
For more than a year, we have been advised to always keep five feet away from others. That distance would help prevent the spread of the corona virus. Similar rules also apply in other countries, although they are not the same everywhere. For example, in Southern Europe, one meter is more common, in the UK speaking of two meters, and the United States keeping it at six feet (1.8 meters).
However, a new study by MIT researchers has now shown that those distance rules are useless. According to the scientists, they are based on an outdated understanding of how the coronavirus moves in closed spaces. They published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS.
At the beginning of the pandemic it was assumed that the virus could only spread via heavier droplets, but it has now been proven that it is also spread via aerosol droplets. They are much lighter and therefore remain in the air longer so that they can spread further.
“Taking your distance doesn’t help you that much, and it also gives you a false sense of security. At 1.8 meters you are just as safe as at 18 meters when you are indoors. Everyone in that room actually has the same risk, ”Martin Bazant, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, told CNBC.
The researchers therefore found some other factors that they believe are much more important than the distance that is kept. In a quiet environment where people sit still, the aerosol droplets will slowly fall to the ground. But in a place where people talk, eat, and sneeze, they can linger in the air for a long time and spread around the room. This effect can be counteracted by good ventilation.
The scientists at MIT incorporated all their findings into a formula that they made available online. In it you can enter the exact situation of a particular indoor space to see how long it is safe.
Bazart also spoke to CNBC about the rules of social distance outside the home. According to him, it is often not necessary to keep a distance because the air is quickly swept away anyway. Bazart even says that he feels safe outdoors without a mask at barely one meter away when the environment is not too busy.
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