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Spanish scientist explains Covid contagion: “Imagine it's like invisible smoke”
24 March 2021 @ 15:09

ONE of Spain's top scientists and key experts in viral contagion has warned the public to look out for a seemingly-harmless habit before walking into a shop or other closed building.

Masks are compulsory in Spain, indoors and out, except within your own private home - with no exceptions. The above disposable masks come in packs of 10 from Mercadona at €1.50, a fairly standard price from any supermarket

Dr José Luis Jiménez, professor in chemistry at Colorado University (USA), says anyone about to enter a premises, or even taxis or other forms of public transport, should keep their wits about them and watch what those inside do before they go in.

During an interview on the US-based Radio Cut, Dr Jiménez recalls how Covid-19 is transmitted via droplets expelled when breathing, talking, shouting, singing, coughing or sneezing, and which hang around in the air for up to 'an hour or two' – notwithstanding the possible, albeit much lower, risk of contagion through surface contact.

For this reason, ventilation is key, so the contaminated droplets can 'float out'.

“What's most dangerous, and gives rise to many cases of contagion, is when people are breathing the same air in the same room for a while,” Dr Jiménez explained on the radio.

He refers to shop premises, with or without air conditioning, as an example.

“Maybe you're in a shop or a taxi and you see the people inside putting on their mask or other face-covering because they've seen you come in,” he says.

“But the air inside is already full of viral particles and, if your own mask isn't on tight enough or isn't of very good quality, you'll breathe them in and could become infected.

“So if you're about to walk into an enclosed area and you see someone inside with their mask off or pulled down, don't enter – even if you see them putting it back on properly just before you do so.”

He actually goes one step further and tells the public to 'run for it'.

To understand how it works, Dr Jiménez used cigarette smoke as an example.

“Cigarette smoke does not just fall to the ground, and it doesn't come out as a projectile – it comes out and hangs around in the air; how long it stays there and in what concentration depends upon how well the room is ventilated. 

“You need to imagine that the Covid virus is an invisible smoke being exhaled by other people, and take action to ensure you inhale as little of it as possible.

“For this reason, ventilating closed spaces is crucial, but it's even more important to do as much as you can in the open air – that's even better than ventilating.

“Where you absolutely have to be in an enclosed space, as well as ventilating, spending less time there and with fewer people, make sure your mask is properly fitted.”



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