WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) experts have pointed out that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that the Covid-19 virus can be contracted by touching surfaces such as handles and doorknobs after studying a series of recent tests.
Since breaking out in China’s Wuhan Province in November last year, Covid-19 has affected 4.7m people worldwide, leading to 311,878 deaths. Being a new virus, scientists are still trying to get to grips with its nature, how it is spread and how to contain it, with the search for a vaccine in full swing.
Although there is a universal consensus that the virus is airborne, scientists cannot agree on other ways in which it can be spread. According to the WHO, it has not been proven beyond doubt that people can contract the virus by touching surfaces or objects where it lingers, such as handles, doorknobs, or keyboards.
In its latest set of guidelines just released, the WHO recommended that members of the public disinfect objects but stated that this is just a precaution. These guidelines also referenced a study which showed that the virus could survive on the outside of a medical face mask for up to seven days.
However, WHO also noted that studies about the ability of the coronavirus to survive should be viewed with some scepticism, since they were conducted in laboratories with little bearing on real-world conditions. In the mentioned study, the virus survived on stainless steel and plastic for four days, on glass for two and on fabric and wood for one.
Another study showed the virus surviving for four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel. Although there have been no cases to date of people catching the virus from a surface, such transmission cannot be ruled out given the behaviour of other known coronaviruses.
A WHO spokesman said: “That’s why it’s important to disinfect surfaces of objects like sinks, toilets, electronic devices and handholds. Also, spraying individuals with chlorine and other toxic chemicals could result in eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm due to inhalation, and gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting.”
WHO also advised against large-scale spraying of disinfectants, either indoors or outdoors, as has been the practice in many Asian communities. It noted that streets and sidewalks are not a reservoir for the virus and it is unlikely that disinfectant would linger long enough on uneven surfaces to be of any use.