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The science behind keeping 2 meters of "social distance" Updated: 2020-04-04 09:22:58 KST

Social distancing means minimizing contact between people. That includes staying two meters apart from others when outside.
2 meters is about 3 steps, or an adult's armspan. Or the length of a bed, 2 benches, or 4 desks.

But why 2 meters?
"When you cough, droplets normally spread within the 2 meter range. So staying away by that much helps prevent droplet infection."

For that reason, social distancing is being used as one of the methods of fighting infectious diseases. But when it comes to COVID-19, it's currently the only method.

Typically, there are three ways to tackle an outbreak.
One, eliminating the origin. Two, building an immunity to the virus. Three, containing the spread.
The first two don't apply to COVID-19 as it is too late to defeat the virus at its origin, and it is too early for a vaccine to be ready for use.
Now that we are left with just the third option
experts turn to a critical metric called "R naught value".
It is the average number of people an infected person can transmit the virus to.
In South Korea, the R naught value for COVID-19 is around 3.5, meaning one patient can infect more than three people.
But limiting contact between people can lower the value, thereby containing the spread.

South Korea has proven this effect as it has flattened its curve by imposing intense social distancing.
But now the problem is that such restrictions cannot last forever, and experts say, the country should start finding a middle ground.

"What we need now is sustainable social distancing -- limiting contacts while allowing society to keep functioning. That may include allowing people go to work, but not at places like call centers where there is a high possibility of group infection or it could include schools combining on and off-line classes while keeping class sizes small."

But experts add that until the outbreak completely ends, things can't go completely back to normal.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.
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