This week, Prof Greenhalgh and colleagues published a paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on social distancing and droplet transmission which argues we should not measure our risk of exposure to SARs-CoV-2 in terms of one meter or two or other fixed rules, but along a continuum dictated by our surroundings and circumstances.
The paper has at its core a grid you can cut out and stick on your fridge as a guide, and in less than a week, it has had more downloads than any other paper the BMJ has ever published.
The great merit of Prof Greenhalgh’s approach is it treats us all as adults, health worker or cowboy. She says, for instance, she would never “shame crowds on a beach” because they are outside and “that’s a million times less dangerous than going to a busy pub”.
She recommends masks in smaller crowded spaces, especially loud ones, but not necessarily in well-ventilated offices. A school might ask its students to wear masks in the corridors where there is bustle and chatter but not in a library that is quiet.
She says there is no need to wear masks outside, as now mandated in Paris, but you might consider it if you were having a loud conversation with a stranger on a noisy building site. As winter sets in, she notes there is going to be growing need to wear masks inside.
“If you rise above all the obsession with numbers, there are common sense things you can do once you know the broad parameters of risk and I think we can trust people to do that”, she said.
Now let the battle begin.