Was the 2 metre social distancing rule ever effective? – BBC Newsnight

published on July 9, 2020

The instructions are impossible to misseverywhere we look we are implored tokeep our distance from each other lastweek news night reported on the findingsof a study that looked at your chancesof getting kovat at 1 meter compared to

2 meters it was published in The Lancetand at first glance the results looksound but now questions have emergedabout whether the evidence for 2 metersis quite as good as it looked the paperin The Lancet was an analysis of other

Studies out there looking at the issuethe paper concluded your chances ofcatching Cove in 19 at 1 meter wasdouble your chances at to scratch alittle deeper and the vast majority ofthe 15 studies analyzed don't mention 1

Or 2 meters at all they say things likeface-to-face contact and then this isextrapolated to one or two meters forsome this extrapolation is extremelytroubling the biggest issue is the useof qualitative estimates to infer

Numerical estimates of distance it givesa sense of precision when actually it'snot there and that's important becausenormally we just wouldn't do thatthat's unsound scientific methods wewill reflect that by saying it's

Face-to-face or it's in an airplane orit's in some other setting but we wouldnot say there is a difference between 1& 2 meter and because the evidence issuch low quality you cannot infer thatand it's not sound sign this matters

Because we are talking tiny margins TheLancet paper estimated your chances ofcatching Cove it at 2 meters to be 13percentbut at 2 meters to be 26 percent it maybe a doubling of risk but uncertainties

Make these numbers highly volatile andthen there is thiserr how a room is ventilated can affecthow a virus travels but for some TheLancet paper doesn't properly addressthe significance of ventilation it's

Done by biomedical researchers andmisses out much engineering data so whathappens if you do control ventilationbased on five major studies the line onthis graph shows the relationshipbetween risk of infection and distance

After you've accounted for ventilationthe studies use mannequins and harmlessgases we can see that below nought pointfive meters the risk of infectionbecomes higher and after one meter thedata show distance has a much weaker

Effect there's not really any solidevidence to support two meters and thenthere never has beenthere's experimental evidence modestamount but experimental evidence ratherthan modelling to suggest that somewhere

Between one and one and a half meters isperfectly adequate it looks to me fromthe data that one meter is indeedadequate and that's where the whi havegot their their guidance from andthey've been consistent about that all

Through the this period w-h-o standbythere one meter ANOVA recommendationthat's been in place since January andtold Newsnight that they have concernswith The Lancet study that they haveraised with both the journal and the

Authors the author of The Lancet paperdefends its findings for sure that'strue that many of these studies did notgive exists exact distances but againthat beats probably so there is therecall bias right but there's also that

That would lead more likely to randomerror as opposed to systematic erroralright so so that is that is animportant distinction there is recallbias in terms of people not knowing howfar away they were but across studies

Our approach would most likely cause arandom error as opposed to systematicerrorthat is very important and the morestudies you have the random error willbe balanced out all of this is down to

Interpretation and other factors thatinfluence transmission some experts saywe should follow the precautionaryprinciple knowledge is lacking so let'skeep it safebut others say nothing is without

Consequence and keeping it safe hashuman costs too

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