Bars and nightclubs have increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, says GlobalData

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Several COVID-19 outbreaks across the US since mid-June have been traced back to bars and nightclubs as the source of contagion. This coincides with a growing amount of evidence worldwide suggesting that indoor activities in areas with poor air circulation increases the risk for contracting COVID-19 – including preliminary results from a study in China that found 99% of 318 analyzed outbreaks in the country were spread in indoor settings. If non-compliance with safety measures is then coupled with low vaccination rates, ‘normal’ could be a long way down the line, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Ana Fernandez Menjivar, MSc DLSHTM, Senior Epidemiologist at GlobalData, comments: “As lockdown measures were eased in the US, more people returned to often inadequately ventilated workplaces and other public buildings – the result being a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Bars and nightclubs are particular hotspots for transmission because, essentially, people relax as they drink more and will be less likely to remember to socially distance appropriately. Unfortunately, this means infections will continue to rise unless stricter measures are put in place at these establishments or they are closed.”

Michael Breen, Associate Director, Research and Analysis at GlobalData, adds: “Increasingly, people’s behavior is becoming both noncompliant and unpredictable, and that behavior extended to a COVID-19 vaccine could affect its utility. It seems that a lot of people might choose to not receive a vaccine upon release, so non-compliance with safety measures coupled with low vaccination rates portends significant issues with hopes for a return to normal.”

Other high-risk indoor activities include attending an event with 500 or more people, such as a religious service or concert, and going to a movie theater. These are influenced by risk factors such as poor ventilation, and behaviors such as singing and speaking loudly. These promote the spread respiratory droplets that contain the virus, which can remain alive in airborne particles for more than an hour, especially in poorly ventilated areas.

Danyaal Rashid, Thematic Analyst at GlobalData, adds: “Despite a reversal in US policy in June to require the use of facemasks in cinemas, experts are warning that cinemas still pose huge risk. Not only are there issues surrounding the ventilation of the theatre spaces, but snacking during movies will require viewers to remove their masks – increasing the potential for the virus to spread in the confined space. Much of this depends on the ability of the individual cinema to ensure that the theatres are well sanitized after every showing; social distancing is maintained; and that the ventilation systems are decontaminated by expert contractors.”

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