New coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for days: study

Agence France-Presse . Washington | Published: 14:46, Mar 18,2020 | Updated: 00:53, Mar 19,2020


Mirian Fuentes, a medical assistant, and nurse Laurie Kuypers check paperwork during a COVID-19 screening at an appointment-only drive-up clinic set up by the University of Washington Medical Center Northwest Outpatient Medical Center on March 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. — AFP photo

The novel coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for days or in the air for several hours, according to a US-government funded study published Tuesday.

Wearing masks and gloves as a precaution against coronavirus is ineffective, unnecessary for the vast majority of people, and may even spread infections faster, experts said Tuesday.

While near-total lockdowns have been imposed in Italy, Spain and now France, the World Health Organisation’s advice has remained unchanged since the start of the global outbreak: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and keep your distance.

The WHO says it is advisable to wear a protective mask in public if you suspect you are infected or someone you are caring for is, in which case the advice is to stay home whenever possible.

Scientists found that the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease had similar levels of viability outside the body to its predecessor that caused SARS.

This means that other factors like greater transmission between people with no symptoms might be why the current pandemic is far greater than the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003.

The new paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and carried out by scientists from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, University of California, Los Angeles and Princeton.

The new coronavirus was detectable for up to four hours on copper and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, and for up to 24 hours on cardboard.

The team used a nebulizer to simulate a person coughing or sneezing, and found that the virus became an aerosol — meaning its particles became suspended in the air — making it detectable for almost three hours.

The study was first posted on a medical pre-print website last week before it was peer-reviewed, and attracted much attention, including some criticism from scientists who said that it may have overstated the airborne threat.

The virus is predominantly transmitted by respiratory droplets and in this form it is viable for only a few seconds after a person coughs or sneezes.

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