World Health Organization finally acknowledges the coronavirus airborne transmission risk


This comes a day after it acknowledged the emerging proof of airborne spread of the virus after an open letter by over 200 scientists outlined evidence that showed floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the World Health Organization, said on Friday that airborne transmission of the coronavirus had always been a concern but that droplets appeared to be the most common infection route.

The United Nations agency had maintained that such airborne transmission occurred only during certain medical procedures and that almost all infections occur when people inhale respiratory droplets expelled in their immediate vicinity or when they touch contaminated surfaces.

The move came in response to an open letter from 239 scientists who urged the organization to acknowledge the risk of COVID-19 spread in indoor settings that are poorly ventilated.

The health agency on Thursday published an updated scientific brief on the different modes of transmission of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, identifying the different locations and circumstances of virus spread. The virus is primarily transmitted between people via respiratory droplets and contact routes, the agency maintained.

"China took the lead in inviting World Health Organization experts to investigate and discuss scientific virus tracing", Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday.

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Palestinians demonstrate against Israeli plans for the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

The WHO scientist said that if coronavirus was truly airborne, "all of us could have been infected with it by now".

Reasonably than measurement, they mentioned the variations between droplets and aerosols must be based mostly on how the an infection happens: If an individual inhales the virus and turns into contaminated, it's an aerosol. "This is a question we all need answered", she said.

WHO's brief cites certain outbreak reports that are related to crowded indoor spaces that suggest that a combination of aerosol and droplet transmissions is possible.

She said the pair would go through available material and "fine it down to what we can get the maximum benefit out of this". However, there's a lot of research ongoing in this area, and evidence supports that transmission is predominantly through the droplets and prolonged contact.

But WHO staff members have yet to accept the importance of these case studies and instead have "dreamed up an alternative story" in which an infected person spat on his hands, wiped it on something and "magically" infected numerous other people, Greenhalgh said.

"Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit", Tedros said, "from countries where there is exponential growth, to places that are loosening restrictions and now starting to see cases rise".