Coronavirus risk: Bars, music concerts, sports, religious services are highest danger

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COVID-19 is most likely to spread via activities including going to a bar, attending a music concert or sports game in a stadium, or taking part in a religious service with over 500 people, according to a coronavirus risk chart published by the Texas Medical Association (TMA).

As governments across the world reopen from coronavirus lockdown, communal activities such as nightlife and sports have begun to return to daily life.

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But according to the TMA’s COVID-19 risk chart, many of these activities are highly risky and are therefore likely to further spread the coronavirus pandemic.

The chart is devised by physicians from the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and the TMA Committee of Infectious Diseases and ranks a range of activities from a “low risk” 1 to a “high risk” 9.

The most high risk COVID-19 activities

Four activities were listed as grade 9, making them the most dangerous:
- Attending a large music concert
- Going to a sports stadium
- Attending a religious service with 500+ worshipers
- Going to a bar

This comes despite the much-publicized reopening of pubs and bars in the UK, with photos from London’s Soho showing busy crowds.

While most music concerts have been cancelled globally, in the US rapper Vanilla Ice caused controversy through hosting a July 4 concert in Texas.

Large religious services and public sporting events have generally remained prohibited globally, although there have been notable exceptions including in Bangladesh, where large religious gatherings have been linked to outbreaks.

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What can I do without catching COVID-19?

The TMA chart ranks five activities as “low risk”:
- Opening the mail
- Getting restaurant takeout
- Pumping gasoline
- Playing tennis
- Going camping

The “moderate-low risk” category includes nine further activities, including going for a walk, staying at a hotel for two nights, eating outside at a restaurant, and going grocery shopping.

Read more: After lifting coronavirus curfew, UAE increases mall, restaurant capacity to 60 pct

Malls, beaches, swimming pools “moderate risk” for COVID-19

Going to a beach, shopping at a mall, and swimming in a public pool are all ranked as “moderate risk” on the chart, scoring 5 (beach, shopping) or 6 (swimming) out of 9.

In Dubai, residents and tourists can engage in all three activities since the emirate lifted bans over May and June.

However, regulations remain in place, including limiting capacity at hotel pools and bars to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Flying ‘moderate high risk’

Health authorities have repeatedly warned about the danger of spreading coronavirus through international flights, with many governments shutting borders and halting international travel except for repatriation flights.

Concerns center on both the lack of social distancing on planes, with passengers unable to keep the recommended distance between themselves and others in a confined space, and the role of air travel in allowing the disease to cross large distances.

However, the TMA ranks flying by plane as a 7 – putting it as a “moderate-high” but not “high” risk activity.

Read more: Coronavirus: Six main guidelines as UAE citizens, residents can now travel abroad

While air travel still comes with a significant risk, this could be good news for passengers embracing the recent reintroduction of limited flight services from airlines including EasyJet, RyanAir, Emirates, and Flydubai.

One expert told Al Arabiya English that the risk from flying could be reduced through face masks and good hygiene.

“In short, I believe that one can, through use of masks, good hand washing, etc., keep the risk associated with flying to an acceptable, if non-zero level. I, myself, despite being age 71, do plan to fly, when necessary,” said Arthur L. Reingold, the Division Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Berkeley.

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