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Back to work: a practical guide to 1.5 meters

Government measures say that to be complying with social distancing we should generally be staying 1.5 metres away from most other people – with some caveats based on bubbles and the events sector.

But what’s 1.5 metres in real life?
1.5 metres, for a start, is 150cm, 4.92126 feet, or 0.00080993523110151 Nautical miles. That’s still a difficult concept to put into the real world.

So let’s go more practical – entirely based on measurements provided by Google, and dealing with the longest side of any given object:

An average sheet of A4 paper is 21.0 x 29.7cm. This means that if you put just over 5 sheets of A4 paper in a line (short side touching), you have the correct distance.

A tin can – the kind that many have bought more than they should have – is roughly 10.6cm tall. Lie down just over 14 of them (15 if you want to be safe), and you’re socially distant.

So if you’re not into beans and other tinned foods, maybe you’re thinking take-out food?

A standard pizza box is 31 x 31 cm – so 5 of them.

A ‘Takeaway-burger box’ is 13 x 14 x 8 cm – so 11 of them

A ‘Takeaway-hinged lid box’ is 13 x 24,8 x 7,5 cm – just over 7 of them, though they can vary in size.

A 330ml beer can, a common occurrence at the moment, is 11.5cm tall. That means you only need 13 to make up the gap. If you prefer your beer in bottles (also 330ml) they are generally 23cm tall – meaning you only need 7 of them.

If you’re not a beer drinker, maybe wine? 30.5cm for the average bottle means you need about 5 bottles.

Another product people might have too much of, toilet roll. The average measure of a modern roll of toilet paper is around 10cm wide, and 12cm in diameter. That means you can think of either 15-17 rolls and you should be fine.

Games consoles are keeping people sane? A PlayStation 4 is 30.5cm long, while an Xbox one is 33.3cm, and a Switch is 17.3cm. This means – to be sure – you would need 5 PS4s, 5 Xbox ones, or 9 Switches.

Not into games? Well, a DVD case is 19 х 13.5cm meaning 8 of them are needed. Netflix and Amazon video take up no physical space, so do not make suitable measuring devices for this highly scientific process.

An iPhone 11 pro? 14.4cm, so 11 of them. Androids vary in size, so we would recommend using an iPhone as your standard mobile-based unit of measurement.

Turning to the world of celebrity: rapper L’il Kim is 1.5m tall, so the distance is actually just one of her. Make it a Kim Kardashian (1.59m) if you want to be extra cautious.

Too simple? Too American? Ok. Think of the space as the height of Belgian musician Stromae (191 cm) minus a bottle of wine (30.5cm) and a tin can (10.6cm). Perfect.

This list could keep going, but finally, we’ll turn to the topic of travel.

Unable to use your STIB card? No matter. The card – like all credit cards – is 8.56 × 5.39cm, meaning you just have to line up 18 of them in a line to get an idea of space.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

This story was originally published in March but has been republished to coincide with the end of the summer vacations in Belgium.

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