Increasing the social distancing recommendation would have little effect on combating the spread of the coronavirus, as the new variant is unlikely to spread the virus further, England’s deputy chief medical officer said.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he couldn’t see how droplets containing the virus would gain the extra distance “like in the long jump”.
Government scientists reportedly want the recommended gap to be widened.
This would mean an increase in the distance from two to three meters without any reduction.
Prof. Van-Tam told LBC Radio: “The question you are asking is whether the new variant will really be able to travel a greater distance, and that does not fit my biological understanding as the distance is on it draws on the power of coughing or sneezing or the droplet of breath that flies out of you.
“Unless we say the variation makes you cough differently or harder, I can’t see how you can gain that extra distance, in the long jump, so to speak.”
He added that the viral load of the new variant is likely higher than that of the last strain, which explains why it is more contagious.
Prof. Van-Tam said, “When you imagine a cloud of viruses around an infected person, it’s not that they’re out here somehow – it’s the fact that they are much more concentrated inside the cloud and when you are that Exceeding safety margins the chances of you picking it up are higher, which is why its growth rate and portability are greater. “
On Tuesday, Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, told the PA news agency that the increasing infectivity of the new coronavirus variant may be reason enough to consider a greater distance.
However, he added that it should be good enough for people to adhere to current guidelines – which he suspected they weren’t.