Pubs create the “perfect storm” for spreading coronavirus and carry more risk than planes, academics have told the PA news agency.
Punters drinking together in an indoor pub are potentially subjecting themselves to a build-up of infected droplets caused by poor ventilation and people having continuous conversations, often speaking more loudly to be heard over the din of a noisy bar, the experts warn.
The comments come after households mixing in pubs and homes was blamed for a rise in Covid-19 cases in Preston, resulting in it being the latest area to have lockdown restrictions reimposed.
Aberdeen was also placed in a fresh lockdown after an outbreak of cases linked to a number of bars emerged.
Dr Julian W Tang, honorary associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, said if you can smell garlic on someone’s breath it means you are close enough to be inhaling their air.
“If the air space is poorly ventilated, that air that’s full of virus is not going to go anywhere. It’s going to linger there until the virus dries up and dies over time,” he said, adding that the most common method of transmission in the UK is probably “conversational exposure”.
He pointed out that when people laugh they produce a lot of air, so if someone in a group in the pub makes a joke then they are massively exposed to exhaled air from the laughter around them.
Asked if being in a busy pub is quite similar to being on a plane in terms of risk, Dr Tang said: “It’s even worse because the aeroplane has very good ventilation. The pubs don’t have very good ventilation.”
He said the ventilation system on a plane filters viruses out of the air, adding: “I think a plane is safer because of that ventilation system efficiency.”
Dr Tang said the general public do not realise just how good the ventilation is on planes, adding: “A lot of the fear is due to ignorance.
“To be honest, on a plane the danger is from your nearest neighbours because that air is not filtered away quickly enough before you inhale it. That’s the main risk on a plane.”
He said: “I don’t see planes as a major risk. If you ask me would I rather fly on a plane or go to a pub, I’d rather fly on a plane.”
Dr Tang added: “In a pub you go there to talk, you go there to do exactly what you need to do to transmit the virus to each other.”
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