Can you catch Covid outside – and how close do you need to be to get infected?

Would you like to meet your friends and family outdoors but are afraid of catching Covid? What you need to know about the risk of transmission outdoors

There is evidence that the risk of contracting Covid is higher indoors in stuffy and unventilated rooms (

Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Many of us around the world can now hang out with loved ones outside. But are we still at risk of getting Covid?

During a pandemic, there is no activity that involves socializing with other people that can be considered completely safe. However, the level of risk varies from activity to activity.

Social activities were classified as low, medium and high risk the spread of the virus, with a focus on the number of people meeting, how big or ventilated the room is, and how long you will be meeting.

With the increase in the highly transmissible variant of Omicron and the fear of further restrictions, we know the following about the risk of contracting Covid if you are outside.

Can you catch Covid and the Omicron variant outside?

Fresh air distributes and dilutes the coronavirus, reducing the risk of contracting Covid outside
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Researchers have said that Covid infections can occur outdoors, but the chances are massively reduced. This is because fresh air disperses and dilutes the virus, as well as helping to evaporate the liquid droplets in which it is transported.

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, told Sky News, “First of all, when you are outside, there is ultraviolet light and a good exchange of air.”

Scientists have also found that the risks are low in completely open spaces, warning that the risk of infection is greater in places like narrow paths or busy queues where air can stagnate.

How close do you have to be to someone to get infected with Covid?

The advice is not to meet face-to-face when you are within two meters (six feet) of anyone. This is because when a person is infected, they release the virus when they breathe.

Some of the virus is transmitted in droplets, most of which fall to the floor but can still reach your eyes, nose and mouth and infect you, especially if you are within six feet of the infected person.

Aside from being close to someone, how much time you spend with them also makes a difference. Fleeting encounters are unlikely to take long enough for the virus to reach you.

That said, if someone walks past you or jogs on the street, you may only be close together for a few seconds, which makes contagion unlikely.

However, it can be risky to run with someone and follow them closely for 20 minutes or more because you are breathing some of the same air.

This will reduce the risk of contracting Covid indoors

Make sure you are in a well-ventilated room when talking indoors
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All evidence shows that the risk of Covid spreading indoors is higher, especially when people are together for long periods of time.

The danger is particularly high in stuffy rooms, as tiny virus particles collect in the air and can be inhaled. Wearing face masks and ensuring that the rooms are well ventilated will therefore help to reduce the risk of contracting Covid indoors

Other steps you can take include limiting the number of people you meet indoors and regularly disinfecting your hands and surfaces.

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