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Don't Talk While You Eat: Study Finds Not Talking in Restaurants Reduces Risk of Covid-19 Spread

Eating out in times of coronavirus | Image credit: Reuters

Eating out in times of coronavirus | Image credit: Reuters

Several recommendations for restaurants were made in South Korea after researchers studied a cluster of cases that stemmed from a restaurant in Jeonju, South Korea.

Researchers have warned that people should avoid talking while in restaurants as they concluded that coronavirus can be transmitted more than 6 metres away. It has been recommended that in indoor venues, a ‘wind partition’ between customers should be placed or the customers could be made to sit in separate rooms to avoid the risk of spread of infection. Earlier this year, the recommendations were made after a study of a cluster of cases at a restaurant in Jeonju, South Korea.

It was concluded after examining CCTV footage, contact tracing interviews and mobile phone location data that one patient was infected at a distance of 6.5 metres despite being exposed for merely five minutes. Another patient was infected at a distance of 4.8 meters after only 15 minutes of exposure and neither of them had any direct or indirect contact with the original case. However, many others diners in the same restaurant didn’t get infected despite being nearer to the source.

Airflow created by air conditioners mounted on the ceiling was also measured by the researchers as a part of study to understand how the virus may have transmitted over a long distance.

Currently, it is recommended by the experts that social distancing requires at least a distance of one to two metres to avoid contact with respiratory droplets transmitted by sneezing, coughing and speaking.

In Korean cases, the scientists concluded that the droplets might have been carried longer distances because the restaurant was equipped with ceiling type air conditioners.

The authors of the study in the Journal of Korean Medical Science said, “Droplet transmission can occur at a distance greater than two metres if there is direct air flow from an infected person,” reports The Independent.

"Therefore, updated guidelines involving prevention, contact tracing, and quarantine for Covid-19 are required for control of this highly contagious disease,” it added.

It is also recommended by researchers that tables in indoor restaurants and cafeterias should either be separated by partitions or be placed more than two metres apart.

“In addition, in indoor settings such as restaurants, masks should be removed only during meals and should be worn before and after eating, while conversation during meals and loud talking or shouting should be avoided,” they add.