As the country slowly reopens after months of lockdown, there are a few questions that are clouding our minds. From how dangerous it is to cross people on the street to sitting with your co-workers in an AC room or going to a shopping mall. 

offices in lockdown
Source: CNBC

Even something as simple as buying groceries in a store comes with its own risk. Simply because a centrally air-conditioned area recycles air for a limit period of time, during which the virus could be suspended in the air. 

This is why, stores have been asked to open without turning on their air-conditioners in most states. So while the virus will not react the same way in your home where no one is infected, the possibility of it infecting you in a public space still exists. Sambuddha Chaudhuri, an epidemiologist at IIT Bombay told The Print about how the virus travels in air. 

This virus is not airborne in the same way as viruses that cause common cold and flu. It is just that if a person sneezes, a thick spray gets created — that is when a virus is in the air. But it does not float around in the air. Having said that, in places like centrally air-conditioned shopping centres etc, where there are usually a lot of people, the virus can get recycled in the air for a short span of time. 

                    - Sambuddha Chaudhuri

shopping mall ac lockdown
Source: China Daily

For example, in the Hong Kong cruise ship, Diamond Princess the virus did end up getting distributed to all the cabins due to the air conditioning system that recycled the air. 

However, when it comes to cyclists and runners you cross on the street, the risk of contracting the virus is much lower than catching it indoors. 

running outdoors in lockdown
Source: France24

In a video, Vox talks about how the only way to stay a 100% safe is to lock yourself up in your house and omit any human contact whatsoever. But since it is impossible to not step out at all, we can only work towards reducing the risk. There are certain pointers that will help us get a clearer perspective on how we should and should not deal with human contact. 

Source: Vox

Crossing people outdoors or talking to someone 3-6 feet apart outside is less risky that talking to them indoors. Because ventilation plays a huge role - how the air around you and the other person moves indoors and outdoors is very different. 

The air flow outside has an effect on the virus, it breaks the protective layer of moisture around the virus with sunlight, rain, humidity and wind, which decays the virus. This factor makes it less riskier to be outside than being indoors, and wearing a mask in this situation reduces the risk further. So travelling in the metro and AC busses isn't advisable. However, by the same logic, taking an open air bus or an auto seems like a safer option. 

Taking this into account, going to an outdoor market for groceries is a better idea that an indoor market if you have the choice. 

outdoor food market in lockdown
Source: Bloomberg

Overall, the more you social distance in public areas the better. Space out and avoid sitting in AC. Practicing basic hygiene, wearing a mask and avoiding physical contact only lowers your risk.