Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Should the 2-Metre Rule Be Relaxed?

Should the 2-Metre Rule Be Relaxed?

Aug 05 2020 Read 532 Times

While most experts say social distancing is saving the UK from a deadly COVID-19 outbreak on the scale of countries such as the United States and Brazil, others claim the two-metre rule is flawed. The latest debate was sparked by a WHO-funded study, which suggested reducing distancing from two metres to one would have a negligible impact on infection rates.  

Senior scientists were quick to respond, asserting the study has major flaws and should not be used as a catalyst to relax the two-metre social distancing rules in the UK. While the study claims reducing distancing to just one metre would raise infection rates by just 1.3%, Cambridge University statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter says the findings “should be treated with great caution.”

Study flagged as “inappropriate”

Fellow statistician Professor Kevin McConway of the Open University agrees, saying the study “should not be used in arguments about how much greater the infection risk is at one-metre minimum distance as opposed to two metres.” He says the study is “inappropriate” given the current climate and poses an enormous threat to COVID-19 management strategies around the world.

Conducted by scientists at McMaster University in Canada, the report compiled data from pre-existing studies to map COVID-19 infection rates at different distances. McConway says the way distances were compared was fundamentally flawed and cannot be used to gauge the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a distance of one metre or two.

Standards slipping in elite journals

The study was published in high-profile journal the Lancet, and is just one of many to garner criticism from scientists who fear social distancing rules may be relaxed too soon. Experts like Spiegelhalter and McConway say studies of this calibre are being published too rapidly and don’t meet the usual standards enforced by elite journals such as the Lancet. Fellow heavyweight the New England Journal of Medicine attracted similar reproach when it was forced to retract a paper following questions over data integrity.

Professor Ben Cowling, who works at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, says he is “not taking the whole paper very seriously” and criticised it for taking a tunnel vision approach to distance and failing to factor in length of exposure.

“I think they did it in such a rush – the authors, possibly the WHO, and the Lancet peer reviewers – that important things were missed,” he said. “Everyone believes that the risk of infection at 1-metre is higher than at 2-metre and we need to know how much higher because there’s a trade-off between the increased risk and the gains from moving to 1-metre. But if you don’t know how the risks at 1 metre and 2 metres compare, how do you know how to trade it off? It’s finger in the air stuff.”

From global pandemics to quality control, science has enormous scope. To find out more about how powerful technologies such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy are being used to protect consumer interests, check out ‘Tackling the Fraudsters: Using NMR to Detect Adulterated Honey.’

Reader comments

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.

Post a Comment





Digital Edition

LabAsia Buyers Guide 2020

October 2020

In This Edition Articles - Ambient Ionisation MS and GC-MS Analysis and Identification of Aroma Compounds in Agave Based Alcoholic Beverages - How a Chromatographic Method is More Than a Sep...

View all digital editions

Events

West Africa Water Expo

Oct 06 2020 Lagos, Nigeria

VacuumExpo

Oct 06 2020 Digital Forum

FORUM LABO LYON - NEW DATES

Oct 07 2020 Lyon, France

ILMAC

Oct 07 2020 Lausanne, Switzerland

View all events