Depending on which tier – or UK region – you’re currently in, eating out at a restaurant is one of the few familiar joys people can engage in during the festive season.
However, research has cautioned that it may not be as safe as we think in terms of coronavirus transmission – particularly if you, or another member of your group, are particularly chatty.
A study published in Journal of Korean Medical Science found that diners with COVID-19 who talk loudly can infect others up to 6.5 metres away in restaurants.
The scientists recommended that people avoid having “conversation during meals”, The Daily Telegraph reported.
They also advised diners to avoid “loud talking or shouting” – indicating any Christmas celebrations should perhaps be a lot more subdued than normal.
More worrying still, the study – which enlisted interviews, credit card records, CCTV and phone location data – found that transmission could take place in as little as five minutes.
One participant was able to infect another, even though they did not come into direct or indirect contact in a restaurant, were seated 6.5 metres apart and spent just five minutes in the same room.
As a result, the researchers recommend partitions should be installed between tables, and diners advised to wear masks before and after eating.
Previous research has found that being indoors with closed doors and windows carries the greatest risk for COVID-19 spreading, because there is not enough airflow to dilute or carry away the virus.
Earlier this year, a study found that big social gatherings – such as weddings and birthday parties – were most likely to turn into “super-spreader events”.
Experts warned that allowing congregations of 10 to 30 people indoors could be enough for just one person carrying the virus to infect 10 others.
Such social events are even more of a problem because it can be difficult to trace which people have been in contact with one another, compared to those who meet regularly at work.