An Aberdeen professor has called for bans on singing to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when pubs reopen.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said pubs should display signs saying “no singing” when they reopen.
The expert cited outbreaks of the virus linked to choirs and Zumba classes in other countries, and fears football fans or karaoke enthusiasts in bars could cause similar incidents here.
Asked if he thought beer gardens reopening next week would affect the coronavirus case numbers in the north-east, Prof Pennington said: “If we’ve still got social distancing there, and there isn’t any singing – because that’s a very well known factor behind outbreaks – and people don’t get too agitated and it’s all outside, the chances of virus transmission there is very low indeed.
“It’s not zero but it’s very low.
“I’d be reasonably confident the case numbers shouldn’t go up. But the test and protect system should spot any problems that happen.
“There was a big choir outbreak in the United States. It was just a choir practice, I don’t think any drink had been taken. They had a two-and-a-half hour choir practice. There were 60 people and half of them got infected by one person being there.
“It’s been the same in South Korea with Zumba classes where people jump up and down and sing.”
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Prof Pennington also said evangelical religious gatherings with a lot of singing and clapping have been associated with big outbreaks in South Korea and France.
He said: “We know that the heavy breathing is the problem in an enclosed space, not so much outside, but certainly inside, is a well known risk factor for transmission of the virus.”
Asked if he would like to see a ban on karaoke and singing in pubs, the professor said: “I would be happier if there was, yes, at this stage, until we get the virus numbers right down to virtually zero. I would be happier because we might get the odd outbreak as a consequence of that and that would be trouble for everybody.
“I think there should be a sign up in these places saying ‘no singing’. I’d be happier to see that, not permanently, but until we get those case numbers really down to virtually zero because that would avoid any outbreaks happening in these places with possible spread out into the community.
“You can’t sing wearing a mask anyway.
“The masks are good at stopping the virus getting out, but they don’t really protect the people who wear them. The masks are really to catch the virus if you’re infected already. That’s their main use really, rather than protecting the wearer from someone else who has got the virus.”