Connect with us

Tech

COVID-19: Should social distancing be increased from two to three metres? | UK News

Published

on

Dr Julian Tang

How often have you stood in a queue and caught the whiff of someone smoking several metres away?

Now imagine that’s a cloud of the COVID virus that you’re inhaling.

That’s the concern of Dr Julian Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.

Image:
Virologist Dr Julian Tang says people need to rethink their social distancing

He says each exhaled breath of someone with COVID symptoms can contain 200 virus particles – and we need to rethink our approach to social distancing.

Dr Tang says the old rules that brought the epidemic back under control in the first wave may not be enough for the new, more transmissible variant of the virus this time round.

The further people stay apart, the lower the risk of the virus spreading.

That’s particularly important at this time of year.

Cold weather and the lack of sterilising sunlight means the virus survives outside for longer.

Science says the risk of transmission outdoors is roughly 20 times lower than it is inside.

Even a faint breeze helps to disperse most virus particles that hang in the air.

The risk is low, but it’s not zero.

Analysis of more than 300 transmission events in China early on in the pandemic only found one case of someone being infected outside.

So it does happen. And probably more often than that study suggests.

Hospital patient
Image:
One person in 50 is carrying the virus nationally – and even more in London

Dr Tang recommends 3m (10ft) as the new safe distance.

And when that’s not possible he recommends people wear a mask. Yes, even outdoors.

Not all scientists agree.

Some warn that when masks get wet, either from rain or from condensed moisture from the breath, they become ineffective.

People at vaccination centre in Bristol
Image:
Wearing a mask at vaccination centres may be wise

If people are complacent about distancing, that could put them at greater risk.

But there are times when we do congregate outdoors – mainly in queues for supermarkets or, increasingly over the coming weeks, vaccination centres.

There seems to be a consensus that wearing a mask in those situations may be wise – and perhaps the government should toughen up the rules on social distancing.

With one person in 50 carrying the virus nationally – and even more in London – one can’t be too careful.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

WhatsApp delays launch of business feature after privacy backlash | Science & Tech News

Published

on

WhatsApp delays launch of business feature after privacy backlash | Science & Tech News

WhatsApp is delaying the rollout of new business features following a user backlash over the company’s data sharing practices.

The delay is a setback for its plan to generate revenue by facilitating commercial exchanges on the messaging app, which Facebook acquired for $19bn in 2014 but has been slow to monetise.

WhatsApp has said users will no longer have to review and accept its updated terms by 8 February – and no accounts will be suspended or deleted by that date.

Privacy advocates have jumped on the WhatsApp changes, pointing to what they say is Facebook’s poor track record of supporting consumer interests when handling their data.

Many have suggested users would migrate to other platforms, and rival app Signal surged up the App Store charts on iPhone and the Google Play Store on Android after WhatsApp’s plan first came to light.

WhatsApp had insisted that the planned update does not affect personal conversations, which it said will continue to have end-to-end encryption, or expand its ability to share data with Facebook.

“The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company said.

WhatsApp said it had set a new target date of 15 May for the launch of the business tools and will approach users gradually to review the policy changes.

Continue Reading

Tech

COVID-19: How long are you protected for if you’ve already had coronavirus – and are you still a risk to others? | UK News

Published

on

The study's results come as the first pharmacies start offering vaccinations

People who’ve had COVID are likely to be protected from reinfection for at least five months and have a similar defence to someone who’s been vaccinated, according to a UK study.

But does it mean those who have recovered are no longer a risk to others? And could the protection last any longer? Here’s what you need to know.

Who did the study follow and is it reliable?

More than 20,000 healthcare workers from 102 NHS trusts across the country, including frontline staff, have been tested since June by the Public Health England (PHE) Siren study.

Some 6,614 of them tested positive for antibodies at the start of the research, suggesting they’d had the virus previously in the first wave.

It’s a big cohort of people so its results are valuable – and the study is still ongoing.

How many people contracted COVID a second time?

There were only 44 potential reinfections from the 6,000-plus found to have antibodies.

Two of them were deemed “probable” cases, while 42 were “possible”, based on the evidence available.

What does it mean for the chances of contracting the virus again?

If all 44 cases are assumed to be confirmed reinfections, the protection rate is 83% compared with those who’ve not had it before.

If only the two “probable” cases are considered, the rate would be 99%, but researchers are going with the headline figure of 83%.

However, PHE says more work is going on to clarify this range.

How long does the protection last?

It appears to be at least five months, on average, from first getting sick.

The analysis of the results was done towards the end of 2020, and the study is still following the participants to see if it lasts longer.

Image:
The study’s results come as the first pharmacies start offering vaccinations

It means people infected in the first wave last spring could now be at risk of getting coronavirus again.

The study’s lead, Professor Susan Hopkins, warned the protection “is not total and we do not yet know how long [it] lasts”.

Despite the uncertainties, Dr Julian Tang – a clinical virologist at University of Leicester – said the results were still “useful and reassuring news” for medics on the frontline.

Subscribe to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

It’s also important to note that the study was done before the new UK variant – which transmits far more easily – had become widespread.

Scientists are therefore also looking at whether “first wave” antibodies provide protection against it.

How does this ‘natural’ protection compare with vaccines?

Vaccines being rolled out in the UK, such as the Pfizer and Oxford jab, can offer over 90% protection after two shots.

In terms of length of protection, scientists aren’t sure yet – as the vaccines haven’t been around long enough to see how long people are immune for.

The vaccines may also have to be tweaked to deal with new variants of the virus – such as the one that’s been identified recently in Brazil.

If I’ve had COVID before, can I still pass it on?

It’s very possible, and the study’s authors warn that a person with antibodies may still be a clear risk to others.

They say early evidence suggests some people with immunity could carry high levels of the virus in the nose and throat, and potentially pass it on.

Can I be more relaxed if I’ve been infected before?

No – in light of the risk of potentially still being able to spread coronavirus, people must still stick to the law and government guidelines.

PHE stresses it’s “crucial that everyone continues to follow the rules and stays at home, even if they have previously had COVID-19“.

This means continuing to stick to lockdown measures and practise safety protocols such as social distancing, wearing a face covering and regular handwashing.

Will COVID be ‘easier’ the second time, and will I show symptoms?

The two “probable” reinfection cases in the study said their symptoms were less severe the second time – but it’s too early to say for sure.

However, if it were to follow other coronaviruses, a second infection could turn out more minor.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from Warwick Medical School, said studies on common cold coronaviruses indicate that any reinfection “is unlikely to result in severe disease”.

But one notable difference with getting COVID-19 again, appears to be the likelihood of not showing any symptoms at all.

The study found people who were reinfected were significantly more likely to be asymptomatic (66%) than those contracting COVID for the first time (22%), said Professor Paul Hunter, from the Norwich School of Medicine.

Continue Reading

Tech

Donald Trump banned from YouTube over concerns of ‘ongoing potential for violence’ | US News

Published

on

Donald Trump banned from YouTube over concerns of 'ongoing potential for violence' | US News

Donald Trump has been banned from uploading videos on YouTube “in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence”, the platform said.

YouTube, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, said it had removed new content from the president’s channel late on Tuesday for violating its policies.

Mr Trump will be unable to upload anything “for a minimum of seven days”, a spokesperson said.

This means he will not be able to post any YouTube videos to his 2.76 million subscribers before Joe Biden replaces him on 20 January.

The president uploaded eight new videos on Tuesday, including one which saw him telling reporters that “Big Tech had made a terrible mistake” by barring him.

The YouTube ban follows similar ones by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which have all suspended Mr Trump’s accounts over fears he may incite further violence following the riots on Capitol Hill last Wednesday.

Google and Apple were also forced to remove alternative website Parler from their app stores this week over concerns the far-right friendly platform may have been used by the president to spread misinformation.

It also comes after US campaign group Stop Hate for Profit threatened to organise a boycott of 1,000 advertisers if YouTube failed to take his account offline.

“If YouTube does not agree with us and join the other platforms in banning Trump, we’re going to go to the advertisers,” organiser Jim Steyer said.

Mainstream broadcasters in the US also appear to be unwilling to give Mr Trump a platform, after many, including CNN and Fox News, failed to take his speech in Alamo, Texas on Tuesday.

They chose instead to stream the latest hearing in the investigation into the violence that swept Washington DC on 6 January.

More than 170 people are being investigated and 70 have been charged over the rioting and looting of Capitol buildings that took place as Electoral College votes were counted in Congress.

Mr Trump had told his supporters to march to the Capitol, repeating false claims that Mr Biden “stole” the November election.

Continue Reading

Trending