Brits CAN hug family & friends again without risk of 2nd Covid peak – if everyone keeps 2m from strangers, experts say
BRITS could hug family and friends without risking a second peak if everyone stayed two metres away from strangers, a study shows.
Researchers warn existing social distancing rules are unnecessarily strict and are damaging the nation’s health and economy.
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Now the University of Oxford experts say it is possible to loosen these guidelines while still keeping coronavirus under control.
It would involve creating social bubbles or small groups of contacts who could be treated as if they lived in the same household.
The team modelled the outcome of three scenarios on the course of the pandemic in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
The first limited contact to people in the immediate neighbourhood and the second to regular contacts, such as friends and colleagues.
The third involved creating a social bubble with people from other households, who did not form further bubbles.
All three strategies were found to be effective in keeping the spread of the virus under control.
Researcher Dr Per Block said people within each group would not have to stay two metres apart at all times.
But they would need to maintain social distancing with outsiders, such as those they see in the supermarket.
He said: “Under the first scenario, what could be done is that you meet people who live within your neighbourhood, so you could extend the radius of your contact to a block or two away from your home.
“In the second, the idea is you ask yourself – who are the people you interact with regularly?
“So you might have a group of friends, or you have a family that includes your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, and you try to limit interactions to these groups.
“What that means is that you don't meet haphazard contacts – such as that person you see once in a while only for specific activities, you don't meet blind dates or Tinder dates or people that have not been embedded within your (immediate) community.
“The third scenario is very similar to what's been talked about as social bubbles, which basically is to keep sticking to the same people.
You don't meet Tinder dates or people that have not been embedded within your community
“So you need to decide on those two, three, or however many people and stick to meeting them.”
Dr Block said two of the scenarios could potentially be combined but interactions would need to be reduced to lower the risk.
He said the best way to lower transmission is for everyone to stay at home.
But he added: “Of course, this is where we have the biggest psychological and social and economic costs.
“Now if we would open up society completely, in terms of transmission rates, this would be a disaster.
“So what we have tried to do is go somewhere in between and say, ‘How about if we only try to keep our contacts to a minimum, but also try to be smart about who we meet with and structure our interactions strategically?'.”
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have previously discussed the concept of social bubbles.
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