It can feel like a bit of nuisance to follow all the coronavirus guidelines such as wearing face masks in public or keeping six feet apart from others, but a new study published Monday in The Lancet provides the strongest evidence yet that these practices do indeed lower the risk of spreading the virus.
An international group of scientists, led by senior author Dr. Holger Schunemann, professor of clinical epidemiology and medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, analyzed 172 studies conducted in 16 countries that looked at the connection between social distancing, wearing masks, and wearing eye protection, and the risk of transmitting the virus.
The studies included people with COVID-19 infections in addition to those with two other diseases caused by coronaviruses, SARS, and MERS. The studies were observational, meaning that they tracked infection rates among people who practiced any of the aforementioned behaviors. Of the 172 studies, 44 (involving more than 25,000 participants) also included comparisons between those who followed the behaviors and those who did not.
When it comes to social distancing, the analysis showed that, on average, the risk of getting infected when remaining 1 meter (a little more than 3 ft) from an infected person was about 3%, while staying less than 1 meter apart upped the risk to 13%. The further people stand away from one another, the lower their risk. In fact, the risk drops by half for every additional meter of distancing up to 3 meters (about 10 ft).
The data also supported the benefits of eye shields for health care workers. The risk of infection among people who wore glasses, goggles, or other face shields was 6% compared to 16% among those not wearing such protection.
So, while you may be getting tired of following all the coronavirus best practices, at least you know these protective measures are working.