Coronavirus can stay in the air for an hour, says SAGE expert – Wales Online

Last Updated on July 12, 2020 by

Coronavirus particles can stay airborne and active for an hour at a time, a SAGE expert has warned.

Professor Wendy Barclay, chairwoman in influenza virology at Imperial College London, discussed the spread of Covid-19 particles in the air after the World Health Organisation said there was “emerging evidence” of airborne transmission.

She told The Andrew Marr Show: “It is the first time that the World Health Organisation have acknowledged that the airborne route contributes to the spread of this disease.

“Of course, there are other routes as well, we have to keep bearing in mind that the close contact routes – directly touching someone, touching a contaminated surface – so washing our hands is still very important, but what this new acknowledgement means is that the route through the air probably also contributes in some circumstances.”

Prof Barclay said the virus can remain suspended in the air and travel, with laboratory studies showing it can remain infectious in the air for more than an hour.

She said: “What we know is that viruses can be expelled into the air from infected people in very small droplets and sometimes even in droplets that are so small we call them aerosols and these aerosols can remain suspended in the air and can travel some distance away from the person who’s breathed them out.

“We do know that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid, can remain viable, can remain infectious, in these very small droplets so that raises the possibility and indeed the likelihood that Covid can be transmitted through these small particles that can travel through the air.”

Professor Barclay was later asked whether face masks are useful and said: “The use of face masks is really about protecting other people from you in case you’re infected, we do think this virus is breathed out in droplets, whether or not these droplets are large or small it’s quite likely that a face mask will remove some of them from your breath.”

She later explained ventilation that replenished the air in a room was important, especially compared to air conditioning systems which circulate the air in a room.

When asked about the easing of lockdown and the resumption of recreational activities such as gyms and choir practices, Prof Barclay added: “There have been a number of outbreaks associated with choirs, for example, and it’s quite possible that we generate more of these small droplets when we talk loudly or sing, or perhaps when we’re exercising.

“So in these circumstances, you would definitely want to be in a well-ventilated room and also the social distancing that we’ve all become used to is useful.”

Michael Gove has said face coverings should not be made mandatory in shops in England, but that he would encourage people to wear them.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t think mandatory, no, but I would encourage people to wear face masks when they are inside, in an environment where they are likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might.

“I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy and consideration, to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.

“I trust people’s good sense. Now of course the Government at all times does look at the emerging evidence about what the best way to control the disease is.

“If necessary, and if tough measures are required and as we have seen in Leicester, obviously a very different situation, then tough measures will be taken.

“But on the whole… it is always best to trust people’s common sense.”

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