23 March 2020
New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday denied the claim made on social media that the Covid-19 could be airborne.
In a statement, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO (Southeast Asia), said "Airborne spread has not been reported for Covid-19. Based on the information and on our experience with other coronaviruses, Covid-19 appears to spread mostly through respiratory droplets, for instance produced when a sick person coughs, and close contact."
"This is why WHO recommends maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene."
The Chinese authorities had reported that there could be a possibility of aerosol transmission in a relatively closed environment with prolonged exposure to high concentration of aerosols, like in ICUs and CCUs in hospitals, but more investigations and analysis of epidemiological data was needed to understand this mode of transmission, the WHO official said.
Addressing the media at WHO headquarters on Monday, Maria Van Kerkhove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and Covid-19 Technical Lead of WHO, said Covid-19 was not airborne. "It spreads via droplet and contact transmission," she said.
For healthcare workers, WHO had always recommended droplet precautions, except when performing aerosol generating procedures, where we recommend airborne precautions, she said.
When diseases and viruses are transmitted as very small particles by air currents, it's called airborne germ transmission. In this case infection is transmitted from one person to another by droplets of moisture expelled from the upper respiratory tract through sneezing or coughing. It's known as droplet infection.
The news article claimed Covid-19 was airborne and could remain in air for 8 hours. Everyone was required to wear mask everywhere, it added.