In the Covid-19 emergency, the future of our working, economic and social life, as well as recreational and leisure activities is still necessarily unclear and suspended. However, with the arrival of summer many people start to wonder if and how it will be possible to move and travel to enjoy a holiday. Here, in a scientific point, some possible scenarios with the rules that we will most likely have to follow for a safe summer, without completely renouncing leisure.
A summer not like the others
First, we have to deal with reality and remember that this is an anomalous period, in which the Covid-19 health emergency is still ongoing.
“Social distancing is and probably will remain the rule for a while longer,” said Pier Luigi Lopalco, epidemiologist and head of the Epidemiological Emergency Coordination of the Puglia Region.
“It will not be a summer like any other and it is useless that we try to chase a holiday at all costs as similar as possible to those of previous years. This attitude could only produce disappointment.”
On the contrary, the expert remarks, it is better to give free rein to creative ideas from an organisational and practical point of view, for an unconventional holiday. “We can start thinking of moments of leisure and relaxation, not necessarily at the sea”, adds Lopalco, “where it is possible to enjoy the open spaces and nature, perhaps also in company, but always in safety and respecting the rules”. In short, this is the frame in which we will move.
Keep your distance, even at the sea
Keeping the distance could be more complicated, on vacation, especially at the sea, where the opportunities for contagion due to the closeness between people are higher than in other destinations. Games in the water, crowded shores, will be distant memories. The rows of parasols and the parasols themselves will be spaced a few meters apart. “Surely this is an appropriate measure,“ commented Lopalco, “together with social distancing, the use of masks and the rule not to create groups or small groups. What we must at all costs avoid is that different families can get the infection by coming into contact between one group and another”. In short, if so far the infection has occurred at times within the family (and it was often inevitable), by loosening the measures, however, the risk of spreading the virus even outside the family must be reduced.
“It is clear” – adds Roberto Cauda, director of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic Foundation of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart – “that people who live in the same house and stay under the same umbrella must not wear a mask or keep distances, since they do not apply these rules even at home”. But it will probably be necessary, continues the expert, to protect everyone’s health, that distinct and non-cohabitant nuclei – think of friends or acquaintances – adopt these precautions.
At the sea, on the beach and in the water
There are no particular risks, however, according to Cauda, if you walk or lie down with the towel on the sand or if the children play with the sand, always keeping their distance. “The transmission of the virus,” recalls the expert, “occurs mainly by air, due to the proximity between one person and another, through the contact of the droplets of saliva – the now known droplets – directly on the mucous membranes, or from hands in contact with mucous membranes”. So yes to walks, swimming in the sea, relaxing in the sun, but always without creating gatherings.
Even with regards to swimming in the sea, there are no dangers. “ If you take a bath you don’t have to create gatherings,” adds Cauda, “and people will have to keep their distance, as if out of the water. But the risk at sea or on the beach remains the same. “
Regarding the probability of contagion from beds or other surfaces, the sanitation, repeated for each user, of deckchairs, beds, tables and other objects on the beach and in the common areas is sufficient and necessary. Sanitation, however, is simple: it has been shown that it is sufficient to pass alcohol or sodium hypochlorite based solutions to eliminate any traces of viruses.
The aerosol on the beach
In general, the theory that contagion on the beach or at sea can occur through tiny particles of saliva suspended in the air – the so-called aerosol, not to be confused with the largest and most direct droplets of droplets – is rather remote, experts agree, mainly because we are outdoors. “Already for other viruses and pathogens it has been shown that in summer the transmission is reduced also due to the fact that we spend much more time outdoors and in very ventilated environments”, remarks Cauda. “And this would probably also apply to the new coronavirus.“
And if there is a lot of wind and the sea is rough there more risks? “Currently,” agree Lopalco and Cauda, “there are no reasons and scientific evidence to hypothesise that the waves breaking on the shoreline may increase the risk of virus transmission by aerosol”. And ventilation in itself is not a negative element: it is thanks to the greater ventilation that the spread of many viruses is reduced in summer. However, caution is a must and we await any other expert indications for stormy days.
The aerosol indoors, in a restaurant or in a hotel
That the outdoor aerosol is not very dangerous for Sars-Cov-2 shows it in a recent study conducted by the Cnr Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, published on Atmosphere, according to which outdoors the probability of transmission virus with this mechanism is very low. On the contrary, however, greater attention must be paid to closed environments, such as restaurants in beach resorts, but also huts and hotels in the mountains or in other holiday resorts. Indoors, in general, the rules must be stricter because if there were people infected the risk of a transmission also via aerosol it could grow: for this reason a good ventilation of the internal spaces is important.
Heat and ventilation could help
In addition to the increased ventilation, the summer heat could also be a strength against coronavirus, as is the case with other respiratory infectious diseases. This, at least, is the hope, but the conditional must always be used, since Sars-Cov-2 is a new virus. “What makes us less sick in the hot seasons,” concludes Cauda, “is the fact that we are more outdoors, in ventilated environments, and the presence of high temperatures. The cold, in fact, unlike the heat, dries the mucous membranes and can compromise the mucociliary clearance”. The mucociliary clearance it is in fact our first shield against pathogens and it is a thin layer of mucus that imprisons pathogens which thanks to particular hair cells are conveyed into the stomach and thus disarmed.
The health passport
Even the idea of testing all the people who move to go on vacation, providing them with a health passport through the serological test seems very remote and also not very effective. The tests in question have no diagnostic value and that often must be confirmed with the swab, which instead has a diagnostic value. Moreover, experts explain, these tests do not yet provide an immunity license, which could however be demonstrated in studies in the coming months. But even if immunity is actually confirmed, those who have developed some antibodies (IgG) would be protected, while those who have only other antibodies (IgM)it could still be positive for the virus and therefore it would be necessary to make a swab.
Furthermore, for those who do not have any of these antibodies, they should still do the swab(or the saliva test), always if you decide to follow this path. Also for this reason, according to experts, this is a scenario very far from reality.