COVID virus ‘survives for 28 days’ in lab conditions

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Browsing the news feed on my phone over the weekend, I stumbled across a news article with the headline. "COVID virus 'survives for 28 days' in lab conditions."

This article explained that the findings from Australia's national science agency suggest that SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19 can survive for far longer than thought, remaining infectious on surfaces such as banknotes, phone screens and stainless steel for 28 days.

Although it did make the point that the experimental conditions were in the dark, and UV light has shown to kill the virus. Some experts have even thrown doubt on the actual threat, explaining coronavirus is mostly transmitted when people cough, sneeze or talk.

But there is also evidence that it can also spread by particles hanging in the air. It is also possible someone could get Covid-19 by touching infected surfaces such as metal or plastic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

What does the study say?

Previous laboratory tests have found that SARS-Cov-2 can survive for two to three days on banknotes and glass, and up to six days on plastic and stainless steel, although results vary.

However, this research from Australian agency CSIRO found the virus was "extremely robust," surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and both plastic and paper banknotes when kept at 20C (68F), which is about room temperature, and in the dark. In comparison, the flu virus can survive in the same circumstances for 17 days.

Other studies, published in Virology Journal, also found SARS-Cov-2 survived for less time at hotter temperatures than cooler ones; it stopped being infectious within 24 hours at 40C on some surfaces. 

It also stayed longer on smooth, non-porous surfaces, rather than on porous materials such as cloth, which was found not to carry any infectious virus past 14 days (2 weeks).

What are the disagreements?

Some experts such as Prof Ron Eccles, former director Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, criticised the study. Stating that "Viruses are spread on surfaces from mucus in coughs and sneezes, and dirty fingers and this study did not use fresh human mucus as a vehicle to spread the virus," 

Emanuel Goldman, professor of microbiology at Rutgers University, said: "the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small".

He said studies that suggested a significant risk had been designed with "little resemblance to real-life scenarios".

And Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, has said the coronavirus did not spread via surfaces.

Some key points.

A science correspondent Pallab Ghosh for the BBC gave his analysis;

  • The study highlights the need to clean hands and touchscreens.

  • Covid-19 spreads primarily through the air. 

  • Studies have shown that the virus can remain infectious in airborne particles for more than three hours.

  • Less specific is the degree to which it can spread via surfaces such as banknotes and touchscreens.

  • Previous studies have assessed its survivability on stainless steel, and their results have varied wildly, ranging from between three and 14 days at room temperature. 

  • Experiments were carried out in virus friendly conditions - in a dark room with stable temperatures and humidity - so the virus may well not do so well in the real world.

What should we take from this?

These results highlight that this virus is so complex, that at eight months into this pandemic, the experts are still learning more every day.

This point, however, does highlight the simple but effective government and NHS campaigns such as 'Hands Face Space' and other social distancing guidelines, are here to help keep us all safe.

  • Continuing to wash hands regularly using bactericidal soaps like Evans Trigon Plus. 

  • Avoid touching one's face to minimise the risk of infection. 

  • Make space (by maintaining social distance).

  • Wear a face coverings such as FFp2 and above where possible.

  • The practice of regular disinfecting of hard surfaces in our homes, vehicles and workspaces and now touchscreens, with approved and certified virucidal disinfectants such as Evans Safe Zone Plus.

All approved and certified products are available from Panama Cleaning Supplies, including safety data sheets and microbiological test reports when requested. Call 01273 889988 to speak with a member of staff.

Credit: Pallab Ghosh

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