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Readers of the UK press could be forgiven for being confused this week when the Daily Mail and the Guardian reported in apparently contradictory fashion on new Lancet research on social distancing.
The Daily Mail claimed that 'keeping one metre apart can slash the risk of catching coronavirus by 80 per cent' while the Guardian said that 'reducing physical distancing advice from 2 metres to 1 metre could double the risk of coronavirus infection'. To make matters more confusing, both are broadly true.
The Lancet study pulled together findings from 172 relevant studies related to Covid-19 and, mostly, to previous viruses such as SARS and MERS to arrive at a meta-analysis of the value of social distancing, face masks and eye protection.
The researchers conclude that social distancing is massively important. One metre reduces risk by 80% from a 13% risk of infection with no social distancing at all to a 3% risk at one metre. But, the researchers go on, the evidence suggests that 'for every 1m further away in distancing, the relative effect might increase 2·02 times'. In other words, you're twice as protected at 2m as at 1m.
The researchers say: 'the results of our current review support the implementation of a policy of physical distancing of at least 1m and, if feasible, 2m or more.'
So, the question governments have to wrestle with when offering social distancing guidance is: do you want a 3% risk of infection with 1m or a 1.5% risk with 2m?
It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. Especially during a major pandemic like Covid-19. So we’re asking.
Men appear more likely to get Covid-19 and far, far more likely to die from it. The Men's Health Forum are working hard pushing for more action on this from government, from health professionals and from all of us. Why are men more affected and what can we do about it? We need the data. We need the research. We need the action. Currently we're the only UK charity doing this - please help us.
Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.