The news: Keeping people two meters apart from each other is far more effective than just one at reducing the risk of spreading coronavirus, according to a new analysis in The Lancet. The researchers combed through 172 observational studies across 16 countries and found that the risk of infection when people stand one meter away is 3%, compared with 13% if standing within a meter. The risk of transmission halves for every extra meter of distancing up to three meters, the modeling suggested.
Masks, too: The researchers also found that both face coverings and eye protection significantly reduce the risk of spreading the virus: masks cut the risk of infection from 17% to 3% while eye protection reduces it from 16% to 6%.
Why it matters: Governments around the world are discussing how to ensure people’s safety while lifting lockdown restrictions. It’s clear from this peer-reviewed paper that keeping people as physically apart from each other as possible has to be at the core of any sensible strategy. The findings should also inform workplaces, restaurants, bars, and movie theaters that are currently trying to work out how to get people back through their doors while protecting them from spreading covid-19 to each other.
Differing approaches: Distancing advice varies from country to country. In the UK it’s two meters currently, although there is some pressure to reduce that distance. In the US, the CDC advises six feet (1.8 meters), Australia and Germany say 1.5 meters, and France has one meter as its official guideline. The World Health Organization recommends people stay one meter apart.