Faith communities are invited to participate in a study on the role of singing in the spread of the coronavirus.
Participants will be asked to sing at different volumes, and lasers will be used to detect and measure the droplets they produce.
Researchers will then examine how many droplets are blocked by different types of facial covering.
The hope is that this may inform counseling to enable the faithful to return to community chanting safely.
The team will also collect information on how Covid-19 has affected prayer experiences for different faith groups.
Professor Laurence Lovat, professor of gastroenterology and biophotonics at University College London (UCL), asks participants to complete a questionnaire on how their worship practice has changed during the pandemic.
They will be asked about their usual involvement in community prayer and their worship experiences since March, when restrictions on meetings and travel were introduced.
Among the respondents, a group of people will be selected to “sing, sing or hum” in front of a bright laser light and a high speed camera, which will detect tiny droplets of moisture – aerosol – suspended in the air.
There is evidence that the coronavirus can spread through these particles.
The light will allow the droplets to be seen and a camera that flashes 7,000 times per second will record them.
Singing has been suggested as a high-risk activity for the spread of the coronavirus after outbreaks were linked to choir groups.
Current guidelines state that singing should be “limited to performers, and worship should not include congregation singing.”
He continues: “People should avoid singing, shouting and raising voices. This is due to the increased risk of aerosol and droplet transmission. ”
But more recent research has suggested that it may be the volume, rather than the singing activity itself, that determines the level of risk.
Professor Lovat plans to test this by having participants sing at different volumes and measuring the differences in aerosols they produce.
It plans to recruit people of different heights, sizes, genders, ages and ethnicities – as well as those with and without facial hair.
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“Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the daily or weekly worship routines of many people, affecting their ability to pray, participate in group discussions or sing or sing,” he said. declared.
“Our study aims to establish how the practice of worship has changed and to find out what is the risk of transmission of Covid-19 when you sing, sing or hum with or without a face mask.
“We will better understand what is acceptable and what is not,” he said.
Michelle Sint, who is Jewish and has already signed up for the study, said she wanted to participate to find out if it was possible to “sing without endangering people.”
“There is something very exhilarating about singing as a community with one voice,” she said, adding that it was “an integral part of the atmosphere and the worship”.
For Junaid Shah, community song and prayer did not play such an important role in his Muslim faith, but he wanted to contribute in order to help other communities.
And he said it was important for him to “emphasize the importance of community worship, even in these times.”
“More than anything, it’s a support network. It’s about not feeling isolated. “