Are you, like me, beginning to suspect that the two-meter rule was primarily designed because it was easy for people to understand?
It wouldn’t be the first time – remember, the “five a day” rule designed to encourage us to eat more fruit and vegetables? Well, the “five” was not chosen for scientific reasons. It was picked, because the government considered it a simple and achievable target for the UK public (Australia went for a “Go for 2 & 5” rule, maybe they’re better at maths that the British).
What about the two-meter rule?
If an infection is airborne, increasing separation clearly reduces risks. However, nothing is quite so simple.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised that flu can spread up to 6 feet (1.8 meters). This seems in line with UK recommendations and yet the US stance is the rather vague “put distance between yourself and other people.”
The World health Organisation recommends keeping a distance of at least 1 m.
Was 2 meters picked in the UK because it was felt that people here would be less likely to wear face masks? Again, Australians were given different guidance – they plumped for 1.5 meters (maybe Australians are better at measuring as well as maths).
One of the clear lessons of the lockdown is that rules only work if people follow them.
This is the tricky balancing act that governments need to carry out. As social and economic factors come into play, the purely medical advice may not necessarily be the best way to go.
However, recent reports have shown that the general level of trust in the population is at an all-time low. Trust in everything from newspapers and broadcast news to friends and neighbours. Perhaps as a side-effect of isolation, views are polarising and we’re getting better at shutting out facts that don’t reinforce our beliefs.
If the ongoing review of the two-meter rule does result in a reduction of the “safe” distance, will the public follow it? Will they suspect it is being done for the right reasons?
I heard today that a staggeringly low 30% of people believe the news – though it was on the BBC so it’s probably not true.
Ashley devotes most of his time to Whitehall Training. As one of the longest standing members of the team he has overseen the development of our courses, ensuring they stay up-to-date and accurate. In his free time Ashley likes to listen to music, especially his favourite group: Orbital.