Scientists and health experts have been advising people to stay at least 6 feet away from each other since the start of the pandemic. However, a new study shows that the 6 feet distance may not be enough to prevent coronavirus transmission, especially during windy days.
Droplets travel fast
The researchers discovered that even in light winds of two miles per hour, it only takes five seconds for saliva to travel 18 feet.
The research team from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus noted that the findings show that the 6 feet safety distance guidelines are not enough to prevent people from catching the coronavirus. The study was published in the journal Physics of Fluid.
For the study, the research team examined who saliva travels through air and they observed how fast it travels based on the miles per hour. They developed a computer simulation that shows how large and small saliva droplets move through the air after someone sneezes and coughs.
The simulation showed that after someone coughs, 3,000 droplets expelled, most of the droplets dispersed in the air. And if someone sneezes, there are 40,000 droplets that are in the air.
There are a lot of factors that can affect how the saliva droplets travel through the air, some of the factors include humidity, the size, and the number of droplets and how the saliva droplets evaporate.
All of the factors were considered in the developed model and it ran different types of equations including the distance, the speed, and the number of saliva droplets that travel.
The results of the simulation showed that even in the slightest breeze of 2 miles per hour, saliva can travel up to 18 feet, which is equivalent to the length of three refrigerators that are laying down side by side, and it can do so in just five seconds.
According to a professor in the Medical School and the School of Science and Engineer at the University of Nicosia, Dr. Dimitris Draikakis said that the saliva droplet can affect adults and children, no matter how tall or short they are. But those who are shorter may be at higher risk of being contaminated because they are closer to the trajectory of the droplets.
The team plans to study more about the factors that contribute to the traveling of the saliva through the air like air conditioning and ground surface temperature.
The research team would focus on the topic for their future study. Dr. Drikakis said that the work is important because it is focused on the health of the people and it also predicts how far the safety distance guidelines should be.
The study can also help experts understand how the virus spreads and how airborne diseases are transmitted. Precautionary measures can be created based on the results of the study.
Petition to change distance rule
The findings of the study came just in time after the former Conservative Party leader of the United Kingdom, Iain Duncan Smith, asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to reconsider the two-meter rule in order to get the economy moving.
The United Kingdom is one of the countries in Europe that are using the two-meter distance, the other countries are Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. Meanwhile, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands are practicing 1.5 meters.