Infected Tube passenger showers coronavirus droplets by talking

Infected Tube passenger showers coronavirus droplets over another person simply by TALKING to them in shocking simulation

  • People talking on the tube can literally cover other passengers with coronavirus
  • Researchers say talking can spread small droplets of breath short distances
  • They say wearing a face mask can stop this from happening and slow the spread 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A person infected with coronavirus can pass it on just by talking to someone in a closed environment such as a tube train or small office, simulations reveal.

In a simulation of Tube travel, produced by software firm MSC, one infected person can be seen literally coating other passengers with COVID-19 – just by talking. 

Researchers found that someone chatting to a friend on the tube can ‘coat others’ with the deadly coronavirus – even if they don’t sneeze or cough. 

The new model looking at ways droplets from breath spread in enclosed spaces comes as Britain prepares to return to work, school and a level of normality after lockdown. 

Public transport has become busier as people return to work and children prepare to return to school. Researchers say talking without a mask can spread the virus

Dr Julian Tang, an expert in respiratory conditions, from the University of Leicester, told BBC News that droplets produced by talking don’t travel as far as they do from a sneeze or a cough – which can travel up to 22ft – but researchers say it is still dangerous enough to pass on the virus. 

‘But they can travel far enough to affect your friend sitting opposite you, or someone who’s chatting to you,’ he said.

‘When you’re talking to a colleague you don’t touch them, you don’t spit on them, most of the interaction is by voice and breathing.’  

In the case of coronavirus, which can be passed on through surface transmission, this causes a bigger problem for London Underground travellers – as the droplets from conversations won’t just sit on other passengers – but also on seats, buttons and handles.   

MSC Software, who created the Tube simulation, says wearing a mask is essential for slowing the spread of the deadly virus.

They found many droplets are expelled from the mouth and nose within a minute of someone talking and they proceed to coat others nearby.  

This can be mitigated by wearing a face mask, which blocks the majority of front facing droplets as people talk, breathe and even cough or sneeze, say researchers.  

According to the Open University, the fact the virus can spread and remain on surfaces for several days is a major cause for concern.

It said that in office kitchens, as an example, simply washing the dishes after someone with the virus has used a cup, could lead to infection. 

A recent study by Canadian researchers found that even a simple cloth mask can block up to 99 per cent of infectious particles, adding to evidence for the use of masks in public. 

Researchers and government officials say washing hands, not touching faces and practising safe distancing from others are vital parts of returning to work. 

Many schools, offices and shops are demanding face masks, hand washing, implementing distance markers and doing regular deep cleans.

While keeping our distance is the most important factor, researchers say limiting time around someone infected can also reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Researchers found that someone chatting to a friend on the tube can ‘coat others’ with the deadly coronavirus – even if they don’t sneeze or cough but wearing a mask helps

The World Health Organization says if you can’t remain 6ft apart, you should limit time spent with colleagues in an enclosed space to 15 minutes.

A study by the University of Oregon, into the spread of the virus in cafes and restaurants, found ventilation plays a major role.

They found that if someone with COVID-19 coughs while sitting at a corner table the 6ft rule goes out the window as the virus droplets can spread even further.

Smaller droplets are caught in a current of air coming from air conditioning units and spread around the room – a similar thing could happen in schools and offices.

Researchers say it doesn’t prove the virus can be transmitted in that way or make anyone ill if it did – just that the droplets of breath can be blown across the room.

In the case of coronavirus, which can be passed on through surface transmission, this causes a bigger problem for tube travellers – as the droplets from conversations won’t just sit on other passengers – but also on seats, buttons and handles


Americans are increasingly being spotted wearing face masks in public amid the coronavirus pandemic, as are people are around the globe.

Soon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may advise all Americans to cover their faces when they leave the house, the Washington Post reported.  

The agency is weighing that recommendation after initially telling Americans that they didn’t need to wear masks and that anything other than a high-grade N95 medical mask would do little to prevent infection any way. 


Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings varies but, recently, and in light of the pandemic of COVID-19, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing. 

A University of Oxford study published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers. 

It’s too early for their to be reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found the thinner, cheaper masks do work in flu outbreaks. 

The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of particles that can – and more importantly, can’t – get though the materials. 

N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and molded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous. 

This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to breathe and work in, but less effective at stopping small particles from entering your mouth and nose. 

Droplets of saliva and mucous from coughs and sneezes are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly tiny – in fact, they’re about 20-times smaller than bacteria. 

For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still contended that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, because there is not proof the gear will protect them from infection – although they may keep people who are coughing and sneezing from infecting others. 

But the Oxford analysis of past studies – which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and didn’t provide statistically less protection than N95 for health care workers around flu patients. 

However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts universally agree that there’s simply no replacement for thorough, frequent hand-washing for preventing disease transmission. 

Some think the masks may also help to ‘train’ people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will just make people do it more, actually raising infection risks.  

If the CDC does instruct Americans to wear masks, it could create a second issue: Hospitals already face shortages of masks and other PPE.


So the agency may recommend regular citizens use alternatives like cloth masks or bandanas. 

‘Homemade masks theoretically could offer some protection if the materials and fit were optimized, but this is uncertain,’ Dr Jeffrey Duchin, a Seattle health official told the Washington Post. 

A 2013 study found that next to a surgical mask, a vacuum cleaner bag provided the best material for a homemade mask. 

After a vacuum bag, kitchen towels were fairly protective, but uncomfortable. Masks made of T-shirts were very tolerable, but only worked a third as well as surgical mask. The Cambridge University researchers concluded that homemade masks should only be used ‘as a last resort.’ 

But as the pandemic has spread to more than 164,000 people worldwide, it might be time to consider last resort options.  


It’s only the smaller breath droplets being spread in this fashion – or spreading further than 6ft – so it may not be a large enough dose to lead to infection.

Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg from the Oregon team said the virus ‘can be spread further than people might realise’.

‘It’s really impossible to completely eliminate risk,’ Van Den Wymelenberg told the BBC, ‘but what we showed was a concept for how you could reduce transmission.’

‘The good news is that there are things you can do to make safer spaces.’

He said bringing in fresh air through windows was better than air conditioning.  

Dr Tang said something as simple as close conversations in an office could pass on the virus, regardless of air conditioning or airflow from outside.

‘If you can smell your friend’s breath – the garlic or curry or alcohol – you’re inhaling what they’re breathing out,’ he told the BBC.

‘And if you’re inhaling enough of that air to smell it, then you’re close enough to inhale any virus that’s also carried in the air with it.’


Infected people can spread a contagion to others via direct or indirect exposure. 

An outbreak will continue to expand if the average number of people infected by each carrier is greater than one. 


Prohibiting group gatherings, closing borders, advising people keep 1.5 metres apart, and confining people to their homes has been shown to halt the spread of coronavirus. 

In this method the public does not gain immunity in large numbers and the virus could re-surge dramatically if controls are lifted. 


People who recover from COVID-19 develop antibodies and immunity. 

As the virus spreads through the population and more people develop immunity there are less people the virus can infect. 

If enough people have immunity the outbreak will die away. 

It is estimated about 30 per cent of people who catch the virus will not show symptoms and for many more the symptoms will not be serious. 

This method produces a spike in infections which can overwhelm the healthcare system resulting in large numbers of fatalities. 


A COVID-19 vaccine would be the safest and most effective way of controlling the outbreak. 

There are several vaccines currently in development though they need to be tested which can take many months. 

If a vaccine is rushed without proper testing there may be side-effects and complications. 

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