The increased infectivity of the new coronavirus variant should be used as a rationale to reinforce guidelines for social distancing or to increase distance, according to an expert.
The comments come as reports suggest that government scientists want the recommended gap to be increased from one meter plus to two meters plus.
Experts say the greater the distance, the better as there is more space for viruses that are released by humans to spread.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, told the PA news agency that the UK’s new variant of coronavirus may be reason enough to consider a greater distance.
He said, “For me this should be the rationale for this – to say that what we have right now is a much more contagious virus.
“We know it is clearly more transmissible, so you are more likely to get infected with it than the previous variant of the virus.
“While it hasn’t been confirmed, I think it looks a lot like people who are infected – including asymptomatic people who are infected – making more of the virus, which is even more of a reason to be really careful with social distancing and hand washing deal and about the use of face masks. “
He added that the government’s message should be that while these things should be done anyway, they are more important now.
Prof. Young told PA: “You more or less said it, but it was not made so clear – that we are currently in this very precarious situation because of this variant.”
“And that’s why we now have to stick to the two meters plus – it’s getting more and more important.”
Prof. Young said there have been a number of studies looking at the viability of the virus in different situations, and many of them have recommended a distance of at least two meters, with one indicating that 1.6 to three meters are a safe distance.
He explained, “I think the consensus from all of these studies – and there are quite a few now – is that two meters plus is better than one meter plus.
However, Prof. Young added that it should be enough for people to properly adhere to the two-meter rule and other social measures.
Dr. Julian Tang, associate professor and clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, said three meters would create more space between people for the virus to disperse and dilute and to be removed by ventilation (indoors) or blown away by the wind outside.
He told PA: “The exact level of protection this offers over two meters really depends on how closely this can be tracked – almost impossible in supermarkets – but easier outdoors.
“Wearing masks – as usual – only contributes to this protection, especially when the distance of three meters, as in most supermarkets, is only physically impossible.”