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Absurd new Covid warning: Stay out of the “slipstream” of joggers

Ah come on now:

Scientists say surfaces such as park benches are also less of a transmission route; likewise picking it up from a passing jogger, although it is best to avoid their slipstream.

“When you’re walking down the street the interaction time between different people will be quite short,” said Dr Roberts.

“If a jogger is running past you, the time that you’re in the same space is quite short, but if you’re jogging as a group or behind somebody then there’s a risk there,” she said.

On one level, it’s not bad advice, necessarily. Running and jogging are energetic activities, which tend to increase the amount, and force, of a person’s breathing. If the Coronavirus is airborne, then a jogger with Covid is going to be expelling a lot more of it into the surrounding air than a person out for a relaxed amble with their dog.

On the other hand: Come on.

This advice comes in the wake of Ronan McGreevy’s super scoop in the Irish Times that the number of cases of Coronavirus linked to outdoor activity is phenomenally tiny: just 0.1% of cases are linked to outdoor activity.

And yet, this advice, if it applies to jogging, surely also applies to competitive sports. The average jogger doesn’t spend too much time in the slipstream of other joggers, but the average GAA half back might spend a lot of time, over 60 minutes, in the slipstream of the other side’s forwards. Is this the reason, then, that sports are banned? Slipstreams, and the like?

This appears to be yet another example of scientific theory superceding real-world common sense. Yes, it is certainly possible, if you are very unlucky, to pick up the virus from a passing jogger, or on a field of play. But it is also very, very, very rare, as the figures show. And yet, in the competition between scientific theory and real world figures, the real world doesn’t seem to stand a chance.

You’d have to wonder, too, how much nonsense like this is contributing to the atmosphere of fear and trepidation around the virus. In the aftermath of the AIDS pandemic, there were all sorts of scare stories and stigmas directed at people with HIV: Fears, for example, that you could get AIDS from toilet seats, or shaking hands, or any one of a hundred daily activities. Those fears, though they were almost all entirely unfounded, contributed to a horrible stigma around that virus, and those unfortunate enough to carry it. It wasn’t until scientists went out of their way to calm fears that things began to improve.

In the case of Covid, though, very few scientists – at least, not any likely to get air time on RTE – seem interested in calming fears.

The official figures make it very clear: You’re not completely safe outdoors, but you’re probably much safer than you are indoors, slipstreams or no slipstreams.

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