This is part 61 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.
Five high-risk situations leading to cluster infections
Japan’s advisory panel on the coronavirus pandemic has warned of five high-risk situations that can lead to cluster infections.
1) Social gatherings involving alcohol
We tend to get excited when drinking alcohol and speak loudly. A large number of people often gather for some time in small, confined spaces during an event. People sometimes share drinking cups and chopsticks. These conditions lead to a higher risk of infection.
2) Groups of people eating and drinking together over a long period
The risk of infection is generally higher at bars and nightclubs, or during late-night bar-hopping, compared to a quick meal. People tend to speak louder and exhale more respiratory droplets when five or more are around a table.
3) Talking without a mask
Talking to someone without wearing a mask at a close distance heightens the risk of infection through the spread of respiratory droplets and micro-droplets. People are also urged to limit conversations inside cars or buses.
4) Multiple people sharing a confined space
There have been cases of suspected infections in shared dormitory rooms and toilets, showing that people sharing a confined space over a long period creates conditions that lead to a higher risk.
5) Socializing and smoking during work breaks
Rest areas, smoking rooms and changing rooms have been identified as suspected infection sources. When people take a break at work, they tend to let their guard down, and the changed environment can lead to exposure.
How to reduce infection risks at mealtimes
The government's advisory panel is calling on people to take preventive measures during social gatherings. When events involve alcohol, it’s recommended they are kept short and are limited to people within an existing social circle. People are asked to refrain from late-night parties and to drink alcohol in moderation.
Moreover, on seating arrangements, the panel advises people to sit diagonally and avoid sitting directly across, or right next to, one other. It also recommends masks when talking, and to take caution with face shields or mouth shields that are said to be less effective in preventing the spread of infection.
The head of the government's advisory panel, Omi Shigeru, says the data up until now show that changing behavioral awareness is extremely important. Omi has asked the government to disseminate the panel's message in an easy-to-understand manner so that it is communicated as widely as possible.
This information is accurate as of Nov. 19, 2020.