ENJOYING the fresh air and sunshine can help reduce your risk of catching Covid-19, a scientific adviser to the Government has said.

Yesterday, new rules came into effect that mean Brits can now spend as long as they like outside – while keeping two metres apart.

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The first steps to easing lockdown measures saw people flocking to garden centres, golf courses and to beauty spots.

Professor Alan Penn, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told MPs yesterday that sunlight and good ventilation can prevent transmission of coronavirus.

He said: "The science suggests that being outside in sunlight, with good ventilation, are both highly protective against transmission of the virus.

"The route of transmission comes in three main forms.

"It comes from droplets, which is where the two-metre rule comes in, because droplets fall to the ground within two metres to a high degree.

"It comes from aerosols which float around more but carry less virus, and the touching of objects."

Prof Penn told MPs that he and his Sage colleagues determined that being outside is "one of the lowest risk" activities.

He was addressing concerns raised by Chris Clarkson, MP for Heywood and Middleton, who said his local park had been overcrowded.

Sunbathing allowed

On Monday, the Government published a 50-page "roadmap" to ease the UK out of lockdown.

Among the first measures given the green light are unlimited exercise outside, having picnics and sunbathing in parks, with your own household.

Brits were also told they can meet up with one friend or family member outside, if they maintain the two-metre social distancing guidelines.

It marked a change after parks were forced to close, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock also warned previously that "sunbathing is against the rules" and could "put others' lives at risk".

Many scientists have backed Prof Penn's view that being outside is lower risk.

Experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have previously said that particles of the virus are diluted by fresh air, and added that UV light can help destroy traces.

Meanwhile Prof Keith Neal, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, agreed with Sage.

"I totally agree that outside is very much safer than inside," he said. "You can be further apart and conditions outside are less conducive to virus survival than inside.

"The use of outside spaces in a socially distant way is one of the lowest-risk forms of activity.

"I intend to avail myself of the new recommendations and go fishing and play golf.

"The risk is miniscule and I think I am more likely to be killed by lightening (waving carbon fibre objects in the air attracts lightning strikes)."

UV light plays a role

Prof Neal explained that talking and coughing can produce droplets and aerosols.

Droplets, which are larger than aerosols, carry more virus but fall rapidly to the ground with gravity.

Aerosols are much smaller and can drift further but also dry out faster because they lose water content, as they have a high surface area to volume ratio – unlike droplets.

They are also quickly dispersed in the wind.

Another benefit of being outside, according to Prof Neal, is UV rays from the sun – backing up Prof Penn's idea that sunlight can help.

Prof Neal said: "Sunlight includes ultraviolet radiation. This damages DNA and RNA.

"I have not seen any work on how quickly this affects Covid-19, but viruses left on surfaces outside will dry out and be damaged by UV light in sunlight."

Vitamin D effect

It comes as various scientific studies looked at the impact vitamin D has on the chance of catching Covid-19.

Public Health England advised that people take supplements during lockdown, as fewer people were getting out and about – before measures were eased.

But, scientists in the US recently found that people with low levels of the so-called "sunshine vitamin" could be at greater risk of death from coronavirus.

The team at Northwestern University suggested that their findings show the supplement could reduce the severity of infection.


Vadi Blackman, who led the study, said: "While I think it is important for people to know that a vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don't need to push vitamin D on everybody."

Prof Neal agreed, adding: "There is some evidence that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of respiratory virus infections, and there is good evidence that Vit D deficiency impairs the immune system.

"Vit D levels are low at the end of winter and people staying inside will only prolong this."

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