Scientists studying the deadly and infectious COVID-19 found that the virus can be transmitted through the air, and have urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) through a letter published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases to revise its guidelines.
Scientists Claim Coronavirus Can Travel in the Air for ‘Tens of Metres’ in an Enclosed Area
The letter was signed by 239 scientists from more than 30 countries and they all specialise in everything from virology and epidemiology to building engineering.
According to scientists, tiny droplets that carry the coronavirus can travel in the air for “tens of metres” in an enclosed area.
As of now, most of our safety measures are in place to counter respiratory droplets that can be spread through coughing and close contact.
We are told to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. We are also asked to keep to a safe distance of 1m from one another and to avoid crowded places.
If we are able to, we shouldn’t touch our eyes, nose and mouth.
However, it seems that the smaller droplets are able to stay in the air and can even travel more than one to two metres, aka more than the safety distance that we’re supposed to keep to.
The scientists also warned that there’s an increased risk of the virus spreading indoors, especially if the rooms are crowded or not well-ventilated. They said, “At typical indoor air velocities, a 5-micrometre droplet will travel tens of metres, much greater than the scale of a typical room.”
Current Safety Measures Not Enough
This warning should be taken a lot more seriously especially since we are easing into Phase 2 where more businesses are resuming operations.
They also said, “People may think that they are fully protected by adhering to the current recommendations, but in fact, additional airborne interventions are needed for further reduction of infection risk.”
This is because tiny droplets (5 micrometres or less in diameter) are known to spread other viral diseases, and there is “every reason to expect that Sars-CoV-2 [the official name of COVID-19] behaves similarly”.
The letter also wrote, “Studies … have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 metres from an infected individual.”
According to Guy Marks, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of New South Wales who is also one of the co-authors of the letter, “the smaller [the articles emanating from the respiratory tract] are, the more likely they are to remain airborne and travel long distances. If they are small and remain airborne for a long period, they can be breathed in by others.”
He also explained that larger particles have a higher chance of sinking to the ground nearby and have a lower chance of being inhaled. However, they can still cause surfaces to be contaminated and infect those who touch these surfaces.
Now that we know that airborne transmission is possible, Marks hopes that there will be a greater focus by the governments to ensure that enclosed areas are well-ventilated so that we can curb the spread of COVID-19.
So What Can We Do?
In order to better protect ourselves from getting infected, you can open both doors and windows so that airflow rates will be dramatically increased. This way, we will able to get a supply of clean outdoor air.
For buildings like offices, schools, hospitals and care homes, they should try to reduce the amount of air that is being recirculated.
And of course, try to avoid overcrowding, especially when you’re taking public transport or going out to the mall.