Not all activities are created equal when it comes to your risk of catching Covid-19. Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggests shopping, eating out, and attending a childcare educational setting (so basically, school) could be the activities more likely to fuel the spread of coronavirus.
The PHE report shows a graph, detailing events and activities reported by people testing positive, prior to them having symptoms. Visiting friends or relatives, healthcare settings, and exercising were also among the events and activities people did before they tested positive.
While this data can’t say for certain this is where someone picked up the infection, it may be helpful to indicate possible places where transmission is happening.
An infographic widely shared on social media charted the most risky and least risky activities for catching Covid-19. It suggested nightclubs are the ultimate high-risk activity, followed by seeing a concert or play, attending an indoor party, visiting an indoor bar, attending a sports stadium, and going to church.
Also considered high risk – but less so than the above activities – is attending a wedding or funeral, hugging or shaking hands, stopping wearing a face mask, going out with someone you don’t know well, visiting an amusement park and eating at a buffet.
In July, doctors from the Texas Medical Association (TMA) shared a similar graphic charting high-risk activities: eating at a buffet, going to an amusement park, going to a cinema, attending a concert, visiting a sports stadium, attending a religious service with 500+ people, and going to a bar.
An analysis by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) also found care homes, bars, religious settings and workplaces were associated with more clusters of cases (where more people became infected). Of course, people are still able to visit such places (providing they’re not in an area that’s locked down) and it’s important we do so for the sake of the economy. But we also need to be careful.
So, how can you stay safe in Covid hotspots?
Choose well-ventilated, open spaces. Is the restaurant or pub you’re going to tiny and crowded? If you’re worried about catching Covid-19, you might want to choose a venue that’s a little bigger so tables will be properly spread out. Or, if they have an outdoor seating area, grab your coat and opt for that. Remember the ‘Space’ part of ‘Hands, Face, Space’. Keeping a distance of 2m (or 1m at a push) from others is important.
Dr Julian Tang, a consultant virologist and Professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences at University of Leicester, told HuffPost UK: “If there are many people inside, the probability that someone may be infected is higher and the smaller air volume is less able to dilute the virus.”
Consider your seating arrangements. If you’re in one of the few areas that is still able to meet with other households indoors (tier 1 in England), there are some things to consider before you do.
Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told HuffPost UK people should strive to maintain social distancing “as much as possible”. If you’re sitting in a lounge area, for example, you should make sure you’ve got enough chairs so people aren’t sitting close together on sofas. And if you’ve got a dinner table, make sure that people are properly spaced. “Even grouping people at the table, you should try and do things like put one household at one end of the table and the other at the opposite end,” she said.
Wear a face mask. Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist based at the University of Sussex, recommends wearing a face covering “in any situation where you are indoors and can’t keep at least 1m from people outside of your family bubble” – and most experts agree. There is evidence to suggest wearing a cloth mask isn’t just protecting others but is also protecting the wearer.
If you’re visiting a pub, bar or restaurant you should be wearing face masks on entering the venue until you’re seated, while getting up to go to the toilet and also on leaving the venue. Some people might choose to wear their masks outdoors, too – although experts are divided on the benefits of doing this.
Stop touching your face. If you’re out and about – whether shopping or with mates – you really don’t want to be touching your face as you could be unknowingly spreading the virus near your eyes, nose and mouth.
Say no to hugs and kisses. One of the biggest ways the virus is spreading is through household transmission, the government’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty recently confirmed – adding that we “have to break unnecessary links between households”.
One of the ways Covid-19 spreads is through close contact interactions between people – so that’s hugging, kissing, standing or sitting close (within six feet) to each other. The virus can spread in droplets and smaller aerosols which are expelled from the nose and mouth when a person is chatting, laughing, singing and even breathing. These particles can then be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs of others, and cause infection.
Clean your hands. We all know it, it’s been drummed into us, but it’s worth saying again – wash or sanitise your hands as much as you can if you’re out and about. This includes before and after eating; after touching tables or menus; and obviously after using the loo.
Open a window. If you’re visiting somewhere that has windows which can be opened, crack them open and let some air in. You might want to dress for the occasion – an extra jumper will come in handy. This is easier at home, but you can also try to grab a window seat at the pub or restaurant you visit. “Any airborne virus concentration will gradually increase if the ventilation is poor,” explained Dr Tang.
Don’t share food. Tapas and small plates are not a particularly Covid-19-friendly way to dine these days. Stick to individual plates if you want to lower your risk of picking up any unwanted germs from others.
Opt for quieter venues. You know what’s not great when it comes to spreading Covid-19? Shouting. If you’re in a noisy, crowded venue then the chances of rogue virus-infected aerosols floating about in the air for you to breathe in is higher. Quieter venues are your best bet. They’ll also be delighted to have the business.
Follow the rules. Many hospitality venues will have their own rules in place to keep staff and customers safe. Make sure you stick to them.