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Scientists urge World Health Organization to reconsider stance on COVID-19 airborne spread

Published on 07/07/20 at 11:35am

239 scientists from over 30 countries are urging the World Health Organization to put more focus on assessing the possible airborne spread of COVID-19.

Ahead of their upcoming paper, “It is time to address airborne transmission of COVID-19,” the group of scientists sent a letter outlining the evidence that smaller particles of the virus can infect people while airborne.

Currently, the WHO said airborne transmission of the virus is only possible after medical procedures that produce aerosols or droplets smaller than 5 microns. Dr Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead on infection control, said the evidence for the virus spreading by air was unconvincing. She told The New York Times that: “Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence There is a strong debate on this.”

Despite this group pushing the WHO to reconsider its stance, it may not be viable for lower income countries to take preventative measures if the science is not conclusive.

Dr Paul Hunter, a member of the infection prevention committee and professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the WHO has to find a “balance” between this science and asking countries to divert scarce resources to measures that might not be necessary, adding “it’s the easiest thing in the world to say, ‘We’ve got to follow the precautionary principle,’ and ignore the opportunity costs of that.”

Conor Kavanagh

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