Meeting Safely Out Of Doors

Even with the high numbers of people infected with Covid-19, BuDS is not recommending that people go back to or continue shielding. By shielding, we mean completely self-isolating yourself and never meeting other people. We recommend that everyone – even extremely clinically vulnerable people – think about their mental health and continue to meet family, friends and loved ones safely out of doors. This article by the expert BuDS team provides the fact-checked information you need to help you meet people safely out of doors.

If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.


 

THE SCIENCE

If you are infected with Covid-19, the virus leaves your body when you breathe out. The two ways the virus travels out of your body are inside tiny water droplets in your breath and suspended in the air as an invisible cloud or aerosol. We will call the droplets and aerosol together the ‘virus cloud’.

If you are INDOORS, the air is usually calm and not moving. This calmness helps the virus cloud to stay together in a thicker cloud. Anyone breathing in the thicker cloud could easily get infected with Covid-19. The thicker virus cloud can stay together and travel dozens of metres indoors, especially if wafted along by a gentle breeze, infecting everyone that breathes it in.

If you are OUTDOORS, the air is moving faster and is more turbulent. Straightaway, the faster turbulent air breaks up the cloud of droplets or aerosol and makes it thinner and spread out. Anyone breathing in the thinner cloud has less chance of catching Covid-19 than if they had breathed in a thicker cloud indoors. As the moving air keeps breaking up the virus cloud, it gets so thin that it is a small risk to people breathing it in.

Wearing a face covering helps by trapping the virus cloud in the mask so that it can’t float around in the air. Keeping away from people also helps because the closer you are to someone, the thicker the virus cloud is from their breath.


 

HOW SAFE IS IT TO MEET OUT OF DOORS?

It is much safer to meet out of doors than it is to meet indoors, but it is not completely safe. You can still catch Covid-19 from someone out of doors. But the good news is that a few simple precautions make it much safer to meet people out of doors. Here are the BuDS top tips for meeting people safely out of doors.

BEWARE OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE – in the autumn of 2021, there is a huge epidemic of Covid-19 among children and young people, but infection rates are much lower among older people who are not in contact with children. It is very high risk to meet children, young people and adults who spend a lot of time with children and young people, such as parents, teachers, youth workers etc.

AGREE THE RULES BETWEEN YOU BEFOREHAND – talk to the people you are going to meet beforehand so that you all understand the rules you are going to follow. Don’t be afraid to say no to meeting up with people who won’t follow the rules you think are necessary. Avoid meeting people who might be infected because of their lifestyle or because they don’t follow Covid-19 rules.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO INSIST ON TESTS – if you’re clinically vulnerable to Covid-19, you have every right to ask people to take a lateral flow or PCR lab test before they meet you, so that you can have more confidence that they are not infected with Covid-19. If people refuse to do this, they are probably not the sort of people that you should be meeting! Remember, a negative lateral flow test does not guarantee that a person is clear from Covid-19, so still take precautions if you have any doubts at all as to whether the person could be infected. PCR tests are much more reliable in saying whether or not a person is infected with Covid-19, but the person being tested has to self-isolate completely between taking the test and coming to see you, so they are not always practical. For more information on lateral flow and PCR tests, please see our article on this.

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE – the virus cloud gets thinner the further you are from someone. If you are hugging or close to someone who is infected with Covid-19, you can easily breathe in the virus cloud from them. So, don’t get too close, even out of doors, and avoid kissing, especially of children. Don’t sit next to each other on a picnic blanket or on the same outdoor furniture – leave a gap of 6 feet or 2 metres between you. If you can’t keep that far apart, wear a mask and make sure the other person wears one too while you’re closer together. Make sure you meet in an outdoor place that is large enough for you to keep a safe distance.

AVOID CROWDED PLACES – in a crowded place, there may be many infected people all creating a virus cloud around them. If you walk through a crowded outdoor place or if crowds move past you, you may breathe in the virus cloud while it is still thick and dangerous, before the wind has had a chance to break it up. So, avoiding places with crowds, even out of doors, is much safer.

THINK ABOUT THE WIND – on a still warm day, or if you are in a screened or covered area, the air isn’t moving very much and so the virus can hang about in the air as quite thick clouds, even out of doors. On this sort of day, be much more cautious about being close to people and think about wearing a mask. But, if there is a wind blowing, the virus clouds will be quickly whipped away and blown apart by the air, so you are much safer.

WASH YOUR HANDS – if you touch other people, or things they have touched, you could get small traces of virus on your hands. If you then put your hands on your face or near your mouth, the virus could get into your body. So, it’s sensible to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser gel after you’ve touched people and at regular intervals while you are with them.


 

SAFER WAYS TO MEET OUT OF DOORS

A walk in the woods or in a park, avoiding crowds, keeping a few feet apart and wearing masks if you have to get closer, e.g. to say hello or goodbye.

Sitting in a circle in a park with friends or family, keeping a few feet apart and wearing masks if you have to get closer, e.g. to say hello or goodbye.

A small family gathering in a decent-sized garden, wearing masks if you have to get closer, e.g. to say hello or goodbye, but after that keeping a few feet apart.


 

UNSAFE WAYS TO MEET OUT OF DOORS

Hugging, kissing, shaking hands etc with or without wearing masks.

Sitting or standing in a tight group without wearing masks, e.g. around a small picnic table or picnic blanket or eating together around a normal-sized table.

Being part of a crowd of people, e.g. on a beach or pub garden.


 

QUICK GUIDE TO MEETING MORE SAFELY OUT OF DOORS

  • Meet as few people as possible and only people you can trust to keep you safe.
  • Only go to quieter, uncrowded places with only one or two other people.
  • Go out on windier days or to windy places where the virus clouds can’t easily survive.
  • Keep a distance of 2 metres or 6 feet from other people, even when saying hello and goodbye. Avoid any hugging or kissing.
  • Wear face masks, and make sure your companions do so, whenever you might be at risk of getting closer than 2 metres to another person (or all the time if it makes you more reassured).
  • Wash your hands regularly.

 

MORE INFORMATION

To see all BuDS’ articles about Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-covid-19/

To learn more about the people who are more likely to die or have serious illness if they catch Covid-19-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/how-dangerous-is-covid-19-if-you-catch-it/

To learn more about how face coverings and face masks can protect you, and read our recommendations about using them, click this link: https://buds.org.uk/information-about-face-coverings-and-masks/

To learn more about Long Covid and its impact, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/long-covid-in-children-and-young-adults/


 

FINALLY

Please share this article on social media, but always credit BuDS. If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.