Coronavirus: can you catch the virus outdoors?

Published by Alexandre G. · Published on 13 October 2020 at 11h49 · Updated on 14 October 2020 at 13h58
Facing the threat of Covid-19, we know we have to avoid closed spaces and indoors. Yet, some experts think there is still a risk outdoors, even though knowledge on the spread of the virus outdoors remains limited.

Should you be afraid of catching covid-19 outdoors? Apparently, the risk to catch coronavirus is higher indoors than outdoors. Even better: almost all contaminations examined by experts happen in closed spaces, indoors. Yet, are scientists able to confirm the risk zero of airborne transmission outdoors?

The answer is obviously no. in April, when the pandemic peaked, a study showed that only one airborne contamination case, between two villagers in China, in a 7,000-people sample group. Then, another study had a closer look on 25,000 contaminations, not assessed independently: 6% of the cases have been found in an outdoor environment. Open-air parties and concerts, crowded places without distancing, sport and so on are as many factors of contaminations outdoors, in the open air.

Moreover, it is known that since the pandemic broke out, studies have been focusing on restaurants, offices, homes, and even buses and planes. The author of the previous study, Mike Week from the Canterbury university, tells the AFP that with his team “we have found almost no case in daily outdoor circumstances”. Of course, he goes on saying “outdoors is safer than indoors for similar activities and distancing”.

Actually, even though the transmission risk is “much lower outdoors than indoors” because of the dilution of particles in the atmosphere, other studies also tend to give credence to the “airborne” contamination way. When breathing, we all release clouds of invisible and microscopic droplets called “aerosols”. These microbes can land on the face of someone else in a one to two-meter area. This is for that very reason you are urged to wear a facemask or cover, inside and outside.

Yet, the group of searchers specialized in viruses interviewed by the AFP concludes “there is no proof Covid-19 has been transmitted when people walk by each other outdoors, even though it is not impossible”. Thus, scientists agree on facemask wearing when the area is highly crowded. And it is specially to get a “universal recommendation” as the “safest strategy” that wearing a facemask is a rule applying to everyone. As far as there is a risk, we have to stay safe!

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