How distant? An experimental analysis of students’ COVID-19 exposure and physical distancing in university buildings

A. Bartolucci*, A. Templeton, G. Bernardini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Closed university buildings proved to be one of the main hot spots for virus transmission during pandemics. As shown during the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing is one of the most effective measures to limit such transmission. As universities prepare to manage in-class activities, students’ adherence to physical distancing requirements is a priority topic. Unfortunately, while physical distancing in classrooms can be easily managed, the movement of students inside common spaces can pose high risk of close proximity. This paper provides an experimental analysis of unidirectional student movement inside a case-study university building to investigate how physical distancing requirements impact student movement and grouping behaviour. Results show general adherence with the minimum required physical distancing guidance, but spaces such as corridors pose higher risk of exposure than doorways. Doorway width, in combination with group behaviour, affect the students' capacity to keep the recommended physical distance. Furthermore, questionnaire results show that students report higher perceived vulnerability while moving along corridors. Evidence-based results can support decision-makers in understanding individuals’ exposure to COVID-19 in universities and researchers in developing behavioural models in preparation of future outbreaks and pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102752
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Early online date29 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • COVID-19
  • pedestrian model
  • physical distancing
  • students' movement
  • university buildings


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