Virology Experts Advise Malaysians To Avoid Outdoor Exercise Even In Green Zones

If you must jog, you are advised to keep 2m apart from other runners at all times.

Cover image via Boston Magazine

Having the itch to go out for a run after the government has relaxed the Movement Control Order (MCO)?

Image via GIPHY

Virology experts said it is better to keep your running shoes in the cupboard for a little while more.

Siding with expert opinions from countries on lockdown, two Malaysian virology professors said running outdoor under the sun does not guarantee your safety from contracting coronavirus.

Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said Malaysians should postpone outdoor exercise, even for people living in green zones, reported New Straits Times.

If they must, the virologist said Malaysians should only carry out outdoor exercises after the area had been declared as a green zone for more than six weeks.

In other words, it means the area should have recorded not a single COVID-19 case for about the last three phases of the MCO.

"This is because we don't know what the transmission rates are in zones outside the areas placed under the Enhanced Movement Control Order, as we are doing targeted testing instead of mass testing," said Dr Sazaly, who is University of Malaya's Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre director.

"Asymptomatic or presymptomatic people may be sharing the parks or jogging lanes with others."

The virologist also said joggers should keep a distance farther than the usual 1m social distancing practice while running

Instead, Dr Sazaly advised Malaysians to keep more than 2m apart from other joggers at all times.

Dr Sazaly's advice is similar to that of a popular new study conducted by a team of scientists and engineers from Ansys.

Image via Ansys

The research firm ran a running simulation, depicting the air flows of a human when running. The findings show that joggers are only safe from another jogger's respiratory droplets when they are running beside the person or in a staggered formation.

The simulation illustrates that such running formations allow the joggers' respiratory droplets to fall on the ground instead of landing on another person behind them. It also highlights that the safest distance to talk to another person is 1.5m.

Although the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, many experts found the results reasonable. The simulation video went viral last month, and the study was reported by The New York Times, and many independent portals that cover research-based findings, such as The Conversation and ScienceAlert.

Besides, Dr Sazaly said joggers are advised to run at hours when no one is at the park

"If you really need to run outside, do so when there is no one around and make sure you don't touch any surface," said Dr Sazaly, adding that cool temperatures and equipment in parks could be conducive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to survive longer in the air or surfaces.

"Do not go to gyms, toilets at parks, or public facilities because confined spaces and the lack of ventilation are ideal for the virus to thrive."

University Putra Malaysia's senior lecturer in medical microbiology and parasitology Dr Chee Hui Yee echoed the same, saying that those who wanted to walk in parks should know when to wear face masks.

Both virology experts agreed there was a higher chance of contracting the virus from gyms than parks, reported New Straits Times.

Under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), the government has relaxed many restrictions, including outdoor exercise

The National Security Council (MKN) said outdoor activities, as well as extreme sports, are allowed during the CMCO, but on conditions that not more than 10 people are participating and are conducted in open spaces.

Swimming, contact sports, and indoor activities - such as football and rugby - and are still prohibited.

Remember to #JustStayAtHome. Watch the latest update on the COVID-19 situation:

The CMCO has been extended to 9 June:

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