A UK research team backed by Public Health England and the Culture Department has concluded that singing produces no more aerosols than speaking loudly in a pub.
The researchers – from Imperial College, Bristol University, the Royal Brompton Hospital and three other centres – studied the aerosols emitted by 25 professional singers.
They found that the numbers rose with any increase of vocal activity, no matter whether singing or speaking, in church or concert, classical or rock music.
Jonathan Reid, Professor of physical chemistry at Bristol, said: ‘Our research has provided a rigorous scientific basis for Covid-19 recommendations for arts venues to operate safely for both the performers and audience by ensuring that spaces are appropriately ventilated to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.’
This is hugely encouraging, vastly more so than the latest German studies.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘Singing is an important passion and pastime for many people who I’m sure will join me in welcoming the findings of this important study.’
UPDATE: Some more from the Bristol team:
While singing does not produce very substantially more aerosol than speaking at a similar volume. The researchers discovered that there is a steep rise in aerosol mass with increase in the loudness of the singing and speaking, rising by as much as a factor of 20-30.
Musical organisations could consider treating speaking and singing equally, with more attention focused on the volume at which the vocalisation occurs, the number of participants (source strength), the type of room in which the activity occurs (i.e. air exchange rate) and the duration of the rehearsal and period over which performers are vocalising.