British study looks to inform on how to safely return to prayer - BBC

The study itself, led by Prof. Laurence Lovat, will also include a questionnaire to learn the specifics of how the health crisis impacted prayer across all different faiths.

MEMBERS OF the Falash Mura community attend morning prayer services in the synagogue in Gondar, Ethiopia, in 2016.  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
MEMBERS OF the Falash Mura community attend morning prayer services in the synagogue in Gondar, Ethiopia, in 2016.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Researchers from the University College of London (UCL) are currently recruiting volunteers to participate in a study to determine the role singing has in spreading the novel coronavirus, according to the BBC.
The study participants will be instructed to sing at different volumes through their face coverings, which will then be measured via lasers to determine what percentage of "droplets" is caught in the mask upon singing.
The focus of this study is not only to obtain information on how group prayer has contributed to the spread of the coronavirus, but also to discover how to safely return to congregational worship amid the pandemic.
The study itself, led by Prof. Laurence Lovat, will also include a questionnaire to learn the specifics of how the health crisis has impacted prayer across all different faiths.
Within the physical portion of the study, volunteers will be instructed to "sing, chant or hum" in front of a laser and high-speed camera trained to detect "droplets of moisture," according to the BBC.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the possibility of aerosol transmission of the coronavirus after outbreaks linked to indoor activities such as during choir practice, but has called for more evidence on the matter.
Recently in Britain, the coronavirus spread had been linked to singing in choir groups which brought about guidance to accompany the fears.
Singing should be "limited to the performers, and worship should not include congregational singing. People should avoid singing, shouting and raising voices. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets," the guidance states, according to the BBC.
Recent research, which has not yet been peer reviewed, suggests that singing is no more risky than speaking when it comes to the possibility of spreading the new coronavirus. It says that volume is the most important risk factor, according to British scientists.

ALONG WITH the study's release, the British government changed its guidance to allow professionals and non-professionals to resume singing rehearsals and performance, bringing the required social distancing into line with usual COVID-19 rules and removing the need for extra mitigations.
The decision was informed by a study by the British scientists based at the University of Bristol, which examined the amount of aerosols and droplets generated by 25 professional singers who did singing, speaking, breathing and coughing exercises.
The researchers found that the aerosol mass produced rose steeply with an increase in volume of singing or speaking, by as much as 20 to 30 times.
However, singing did not produce substantially more aerosol than speaking at a similar volume, and there was not a significant difference in aerosol production between different genres such as choral, musical theatre, opera, jazz, gospel rock or pop.
"The study has shown the transmission of viruses in small aerosol particles generated when someone sings or speaks are equally possible with both activities generating similar numbers of particles," said Jonathan Reid, director of the ESPRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science. "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."
Lovat intends to instruct people to sing at different volumes throughout the upcoming study to either confirm or deny the previous research.
"Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed many people's daily or weekly worshipping routines, affecting their ability to pray, enjoy group discussion or take part in singing or chanting," Lovat said, according to the BBC. "Our study aims to establish how the practice of worship has changed and find out what the risk of Covid-19 transmission is when singing, chanting or humming with or without a face mask."
He purports that "we'll have a better understanding of what's acceptable and what isn't" following the study's completion.
"There's something very uplifting about singing as a community in one voice," said Michelle Sint, a Jewish study participant. It's "an integral part of the atmosphere and the worship."
Sint enrolled because she would like to know if it's possible to "sing without putting people at risk."
Muslim worshiper Junaid Shah enrolled in the study as well. While he notes that singing is not a major part of Muslim prayer, he would like to "highlight the importance of communal worship, even in these times," according to the BBC. "More than anything it's a support network – it's about not feeling isolated."

Reuters contributed to this report.