People who are two meters apart are likely still breathing the same air

By Nicole Ganglani | Art by Tricia Guevara | Photo sourced by Cullen Jones, Rabie Madaci, Hannah Reding, Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

As some parts of the country have transitioned to either modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ), outdoor workouts are now permitted as long as people follow safety measures. These include wearing a mask while running, jogging, walking or participating in non-contact sports while maintaining a two-meter distance from others. The question now though is not if it’s safe to work out outdoors but whether or not the two-meter distance is enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

 The answer is no, according to multiple health authorities like sports science expert Dr. Bavornrit Chuckpaiwong. That’s because people who are two meters apart are likely breathing the same air that could possibly carry droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes. These people could also possibly be touching the same surfaces and objects, making transmission more likely. If people are exercising in an environment where there is more than one person working out, especially in enclosed spaces, then the risk of contracting the virus is even greater.

If people are exercising in an environment where there is more than one person working out, especially in enclosed spaces, then the risk of contracting the virus is even greater

Research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also states that maintaining a two-meter distance is not enough for people to protect themselves from the novel virus since the droplets that are expelled when people cough or sneeze travel at approximately 10 to 30 meters (33 to 100ft) per second. The droplets also tend to create a cloud that can travel seven to eight meters (23ft to 27ft) in the air. This goes to show that people who exercise outdoors may still be at risk even if they distance themselves from others.

 

Practice extra social distancing when exercising outdoors

While outdoor exercise is allowed right now, the best way people can still keep themselves protected is to distance themselves from others at least 20 meters apart. This ensures that they won’t be exposed to the same breathing space as the person in front of them. Besides wearing a mask and keeping at least 20 meters apart, people should also wear gloves while exercising and remember to avoid touching solid surfaces that could be infected by the virus. 

Dr. Bavornrit compares contracting the virus with smelling perfume. Even if a person is two to three meters apart, there is still a possibility that other people in the same space can smell the perfume. The same goes with those who exercise outdoors in the time of COVID-19. People who are two or even five meters apart from each other may still contract the virus since they share the same breathing air.

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