From this week, the Government ‘roadmap’ for the pandemic says that people can meet up with other people out of doors. Many older, disabled and shielding people are worried about doing this, wondering if it is safe and how it can be done in safer ways. So, the expert BuDS team has put together some fact-checked information to help you decide what to do.
If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail [email protected], call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.
THE NEW RULES
The new rules that apply are:
You still CAN’T meet people indoors except your own household at home. So, you can’t have friends or family around to dinner inside your house, for example, or meet people inside a restaurant.
You CAN meet with up to 6 people out of doors if they are from different households. So, for example, you can now meet up with 6 friends in a park.
You CAN meet any number of people out of doors if they are from only two households. So, for example, if you live with your partner and three children (total 5 people) you could meet friends who have 4 children plus their gran who lives with them (total 7) = a gathering of 12 people.
If you are infected with Covid-19, you breathe out the virus. The two ways the virus travels out of your body are inside tiny water droplets (large or small) in your breath and smaller droplets and aerosol suspended in the air as an invisible cloud. We will call those smaller droplets and aerosol together the ‘virus cloud’. If you would like to know more about this, watch this helpful video from The Wellcome Trust: https://youtu.be/0cIAHksqZ8s
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 despite social distancing. 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 properly fitted face mask 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 MANY INFECTED PEOPLE ARE THERE IN THE COMMUNITY?
There are about as many infected people in the Buckinghamshire community now as there were last autumn, when many people felt that there should be a lockdown. There are 9 times as many infected people in the Bucks community as there were last summer. At the moment, there are hundreds of infected people in every town in Buckinghamshire, and there is likely to be at least 1 infected person in every busy supermarket, park or shopping centre.
What this means is that there is a definite risk that people you mix with in the community might be infected with Covid-19. So, when thinking about mixing with other people out of doors, you need to think very carefully about whether this is safe for you. You don’t have to go out and meet people if you don’t want to, or you don’t feel happy or safe doing so. To be clear, BuDS still recommends that high-risk people (older, shielding & disabled) should NOT be mixing with people out of doors yet unless they have had *both* doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
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.
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.
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, even 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.
BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU TALK – when people talk, they automatically open their mouth and breathe out, point their faces at the person they are talking to, and often they get closer to the person they are talking to as well. This makes it much easier for the virus cloud to be breathed out straight into the other person’s face. Remember to stay distant from people even when you are talking to them or put on a mask when you talk or when people are talking to you.
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 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.
REMEMBER CHILDREN CAN CARRY THE VIRUS – children, teenagers and young adults may not get very ill with Covid-19, but they can still carry the virus and give it to others. If you can’t stay away from children, wear a face mask and wash your hands afterwards.
REMEMBER VACCINATED PEOPLE CAN STILL CARRY THE VIRUS – vaccinated people can still carry the virus even if the vaccine stops them getting ill with Covid-19. So, don’t assume people who’ve been vaccinated won’t spread the virus – treat them just like everyone else.
SAFER WAYS TO MEET OUT OF DOORS
A walk in the woods or in a park, socially distanced, avoiding crowds, 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 6 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.
UNSAFE WAYS TO MEET OUT OF DOORS
Hugging, kissing, shaking hands etc with or without wearing masks is unsafe and against the current rules.
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.
IF YOU’RE SHIELDING, OLDER OR DISABLED
Even high-risk groups can meet relatively safely out of doors, but they have to be much more careful. Here are some helpful hints:
Meet as few people as possible and only people you can trust to follow the rules.
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.
To see all BuDS’ articles about Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/articles-about-covid-19/
To read BuDS’ analysis of the Government’s entire unlock ‘roadmap’, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/buds-reaction-to-governments-pandemic-roadmap-6-march/
To learn more about the people who are more likely to die or have serious illness if they catch Covid-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 the changes to the Government’s list of people who should be shielding, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/1-7-million-people-added-to-shielding-register/
To learn more about the vaccines currently in use, as well the answers to some frequently asked questions about them, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/vaccine-update-and-faqs-04-03-21/
To learn more about Long Covid and its impact, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/long-covid-in-children-and-young-adults/
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 [email protected], call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.