A new comprehensive analysis has shown how much physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection can help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 as well as other airborne viruses like those responsible for SARS and MERS.
Published in The Lancet, the study reveals that keeping a physical distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from other people reduces the chance of transmission to 2.6 percent. A distance of 2 meters (6 feet) cuts that in half. The use of face masks cut the risk to 3.1 percent, and the use of eye protection, such as goggles or visors, cuts it down to 5.5 percent.
The combination of these measures can drastically reduce the chance of transmission between people, but the researchers plainly state that even the correct use of these methods together doesn’t offer complete protection. For this reason, these approaches need to be done together with other protective measures such as washing hands, as hand hygiene is key to stopping the transmission.
The work analyzed data from 172 studies conducted in 16 nations based on the transmission of the viruses behind SARS, MERS, and Covid-19, as well as 44 comparative studies in health-care and non-health-care settings.
"Our findings are the first to synthesize all direct information on COVID-19, SARS, and MERS, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help "flatten the curve" and inform pandemic response efforts in the community", co-lead author Professor Holger Schünemann from McMaster University in Canada, said in a statement. "Governments and the public health community can use our results to give clear advice for community settings and healthcare workers on these protective measures to reduce infection risk."
The team is upfront that there are still uncertainties in the mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and given that the pandemic is ongoing, the current studies on the disease are affected by these unknowns.
Over 6.3 million people across the world have contracted Covid-19 so far and the pandemic has claimed the lives of over 375,000 people.