Restaurants and gyms not associated with Covid infection, according to report

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Visiting supermarkets, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres does not appear to increase the risk of catching coronavirus, according to a report by Wales’ public health agency.

The new study by Public Health Wales also says that transmission within household was the “most important source” of Covid-19 infections.

The report is based on evidence from mass testing in Merthyr Tydfil and the Cynon Valley during height of the second wave of the pandemic between November 21 and when Wales entered lockdown on December 20.

Published on Tuesday, it said working in education, living with someone who did, or having caring responsibilities did not increase the risk of catching the virus.

Other activities “not associated with infection” were “attending a healthcare appointment and visiting a supermarket, restaurant, gym or leisure centre”.

Addressing where risk of transmissions was increased, the report says: “We found that transmission within the household was the most important source of Sars-CoV-2 infection.

“Working in the hospitality sector, and visiting the pub were associated with infection but at the time of this study were relatively infrequent exposures.

“Smoking or vaping had a small but significant effect.”

Merthyr Tydfil and the Cynon Valley were two of Wales’ worst-hit areas towards the end of 2020, with Merthyr registering the highest seven day case rate in the UK in the middle of December.

The report’s authors say while the findings relate to a specific community at a specific time when Covid-19 restrictions were in place, the information “will be useful in supporting policy decisions”.

Its findings were taken from responses to an online questionnaire completed by 199 people who had tested positive for the virus and 2,621 people who tested negative.

Questions were asked on demographic and social risk factors, including age, ethnicity, occupation, location, the people who they share a household with, caring responsibilities, and social interactions in the previous 10 days.

The study focused on risk factors for catching Covid-19 in a community setting rather than the risk of developing a serious illness leading to hospital admission or death, with 99.6% of those who attended the mass testing pilot being asymptomatic at the time.

Professor Daniel Thomas, consultant epidemiologist at Public Health Wales, said: “This study reminds us that while education settings do not appear to present a significant transmission risk for coronavirus, there is a much greater risk of catching the virus at home, in a hospitality setting, or in the pub.

“This reinforces the need to avoid mixing with other households, and sticking to coronavirus restrictions by working from home if you can, wearing a face covering where required, washing your hands regularly and staying two metres from anyone you do not live with.”

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