People who follow the advice to stay 1.5 apart from others are less likely to contract the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. People who maintain that distance during contact with others are less likely to have antibodies against the virus in their blood. This was clear from research conducted among participants in the PIENTER Corona Study during the first COVID-19 wave until June 2020. The results of the study were recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed medical journal of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Antibodies were found in the blood of 5.5% of the participants who did not follow the distancing rule. Only 4% of people who did keep their distance during contact with others has antibodies in their blood.
More than 7,000 participants spread throughout the Netherlands are taking part in the PIENTER Corona Study. They take blood samples at home. The participants also fill in a questionnaire about possible risk factors for becoming infected with the coronavirus, completing the questionnaire six times over the course of the study. The questions include how many people they had contact with in the days before they filled in the questionnaire, and how often they were able to stay 1.5 metres apart from those contacts. This gives an idea of how well people usually keep their distance. The results showed that there were fewer coronavirus infections among participants who kept their distance during the first wave. 

Age of contacts 

An important detail in the study was the age of the people they were in contact with. Participants who mostly had contact with children under the age of 10 were hardly ever infected during those encounters. These participants were not more likely to have antibodies in their blood than people who reported no contact at all. Similarly, participants who indicated that they had an occupation involving physical contact with children were not more likely to be infected. 

Meetings and gatherings 

The questionnaire also asked about meetings and gatherings. The researchers found antibodies in the blood of 6.2% of the participants who had attended a meeting or gathering (involving more than 20 people) in an indoor environment during the first wave. This was almost 1.5 times more often than people who had not attended meetings at all (4.2%). Group size thus proved to be an important predictor of coronavirus infection. 
Fewer contacts and more distance = less transmission
The study shows that social distancing is an important measure in stopping the spread of the virus. This study took place during the first COVID-19 wave, before the emergence of new virus variants. Since these variants are more contagious, it is even more important to maintain sufficient distance. 
The article also states that distancing within households is important in the event of an outbreak. This is not always feasible, the researchers concur. Even so, they emphasise how relevant it can be to reduce transmission and spread of the virus, in addition to staying 1.5 metres from others outside the home.

Other conclusions drawn from the analyses can be read in the article.

New results expected

The study was repeated in February/March 2021 during the 4th round of the PICO study. Results are expected shortly. 

If everyone follows the basic rules, then fewer people will be infected. Stay 1.5 metres from others, stay home if you have symptoms, get tested, and keep washing your hands regularly. This is how we can stop the coronavirus from spreading. 

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