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Singing is no more of a COVID-19 risk than talking but volume matters, UK study finds

Thu, 20th Aug 2020 14:58

LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Singing is no more risky than
speaking when it comes to the possibility of spreading the new
coronavirus, British scientists said on Thursday, adding that
volume is the most important risk factor.

Last week, the British government changed its guidance to
allow professionals and non-professionals to resume singing
rehearsals and performance, bringing the required social
distancing into line with usual COVID-19 rules and removing the
need for extra mitigations.

That decision was informed by a study by scientists based at
the University of Bristol, who examined the amount of aerosols
and droplets generated by 25 professional singers who did
singing, speaking, breathing and coughing exercises.

The researchers found that the aerosol mass produced rose
steeply with an increase in volume of singing or speaking, by as
much as 20 to 30 times.

However, singing did not produce substantially more aerosol
than speaking at a similar volume, and there was not a
significant difference in aerosol production between different
genres such as choral, musical theatre, opera, jazz, gospel rock
or pop.

"The study has shown the transmission of viruses in small
aerosol particles generated when someone sings or speaks are
equally possible with both activities generating similar numbers
of particles," said Jonathan Reid, director of the ESPRC Centre
for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science.

"Our research has provided a rigorous scientific basis for
COVID-19 recommendations for arts venues to operate safely for
both the performers and audience by ensuring that spaces are
appropriately ventilated to reduce the risk of airborne
transmission."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the
possibility of aerosol transmission of the coronavirus after
outbreaks linked to indoor spaces such as during choir practice,
but has called for more evidence on the matter.

The study is a pre-print, meaning it is yet to be
peer-reviewed.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout)

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