Covid-19: are we really at risk of being contaminated in the open air?

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VIRUS – To stop the spread of the epidemic, more and more cities are requiring masks to be worn outdoors. But is there really a risk of outdoor contamination?

Faced with the still active spread of Covid-19 in certain regions, several cities have decided to impose the wearing of masks outdoors. This is particularly the case in the Somme, where since February 27, wearing a mask is now mandatory, including on the beaches. “particularly frequented by the population”.

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A measure reluctantly received by the inhabitants: “It shouldn’t be compulsory. Everyone has their distances, we are in the open air, it would be nicer without a mask.”

A real risk of transmission

In recent days, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has even proposed that teachers take lessons in the city’s parks and gardens in order to limit contamination. But what do we really know about the risk of outdoor contamination? According to Prof. Jean-Stéphane Dhersin, specialist in epidemic modeling, for a person to be infected, “she needs to have an infectious person who transmits the virus to her”. “If she is alone, she is not at risk. On the other hand, as soon as you are outside and if you meet someone, you have a risk of transmission”, he adds.

An observation shared by Dr. Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist in Garches and interviewed by TF1: “Outside, we will be face to face, we will issue postilions and we risk becoming contaminated.” Since February 2020, if several studies indicate that the risk of contamination is lower outdoors, no real data shows a significant drop in the spread, especially during gatherings, hence the recommendation as a precaution to wear the mask even in the outside. According to Mike Weed, author of a study on the subject in April, “the risk of transmission is much lower outdoors than indoors because viruses released into the air can quickly dilute in the atmosphere”.

We have rarely seen contamination outside in the open air– Dr. Gérald Kierzek, consultant TF1-LCI

What barrier gestures should be observed outside to limit the risks? Also questioned on TF1 on the decision of the mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône to authorize a funfair despite the prefectural ban, Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency doctor at the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris and consultant TF1-LCI, considered that this reopening could be heard on condition of applying “the sanitary protocol”, of “wear the mask and disinfect your hands”. According to him, “we have rarely seen contamination outside in the open air”.

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However, no later than last weekend, several gatherings on the banks of the Seine were interrupted by the police, who evacuated the premises at the end of the day. Measures taken in particular because of the spread of the British variant in France, the latter being more contagious than the original virus.

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