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The World Health Organization says COVID-19 can linger in the air indoors

Published on 10/07/20 at 10:56am

The World Health Organization has recoginised that COVID-19 can be transmitted indoors by droplets in the air, reversing its previous stance.

This U-turn comes after 239 scientists from over 30 countries urged the WHO to put more focus on assessing the possible airborne spread of COVID-19. Previously, they had described this type of transmission as unlikely unless it came after certain medical procedures carried out on coronavirus patients.

The WHO have now said that people who spend time in crowded settings with poor ventilation run the risk of being infected by the virus as droplets circulate throughout the air. It said in a statment: “Outbreaks of COVID-19  have been reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting.

“Respiratory droplet transmission can occur when a person is in close contact (within 1 metre) with an infected person who has respiratory symptoms or who is talking or singing; in these circumstances, respiratory droplets that include the virus can reach the mouth, nose or eyes of a susceptible person and can result in infection.”

They have also said people should avoid crowded places, close contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Linsey, Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech, told The New York Times: “It is refreshing to see that W.H.O. is now acknowledging that airborne transmission may occur, although it is clear that the evidence must clear a higher bar for this route compared to others.”

Outdoors, the virus may be in small droplets in the air, but these quickly become too diluted to pose a serious risk to people.

Conor Kavanagh

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