Spending time in a bar or restaurant increases the risk of contracting Covid-19, French researchers said Thursday, while having guests for dinner also plays a key role in the broadcast.
The latest study adds to the evidence that socializing and eating out are far more dangerous than other activities such as using public transport or shopping.
It comes as Europe and the United States in particular grapple with rising infection rates and the start of a holiday season normally characterized by celebrations and family reunions.
Researchers from the French Institut Pasteur sought to find out what factors – such as professions, modes of transport, places visited – differentiated participants who had contracted the virus from those who did not.
“We have seen an increased risk associated with frequenting bars and restaurants,” said lead author Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist and member of the scientific council leading the government.
The study, called ComCor, was not peer reviewed but informed the virus response from France.
It was carried out in October and November, during an initial curfew period and then even stricter restrictions that saw most of the establishments closed partially or completely.
Fontanet told AFP that because bars and restaurants do not operate normally, it was difficult to assess their exact role in the broadcast and acknowledged that closing these businesses was a “sensitive” move.
French cafes and restaurants remained closed even after nationwide restrictions were eased earlier this week.
ComCor researchers interviewed 3,400 people infected with Covid-19 and 1,700 others who did not have the virus.
They found that frequenting restaurants, bars, or gyms was associated with an increased risk of infection, while using public transport and visiting shops was not.
Health authorities around the world have advised people to avoid crowded indoor spaces as scientists increasingly agree that the novel coronavirus can travel in thin clouds of particles known as aerosols that can collect in poorly ventilated rooms.
A September survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adults with positive coronavirus test results were about twice as likely to report eating at a restaurant in the previous two weeks than those with results negatives.
In November, a study in the journal Nature found that restaurants, gyms and cafes are responsible for the majority of Covid-19 infections in the United States.
Using cell phone data from 98 million people, the researchers found that about 10 percent of the locations accounted for more than 80 percent of cases.
The ComCor research also sought to identify different circumstances of infection, with surveys of 25,600 infected people using health insurance data.
It showed that “meals play a central role in these contaminations”, as people sat close to each other without masks.
“Private encounters – families, friends – are the main source of infection,” Fontanet said.
“If people organize friendly dinners at home instead of going to restaurants, it makes no difference.”
The researchers stressed the importance of organizing such gatherings “as safely as possible” to protect vulnerable people during the holidays.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)