Does Covid-19 live on objects? If you can catch coronavirus from supermarket items, surfaces and newspapers

There are certain things you can do to stop the spread of infection in your home

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 11:27 am

How long covid-19 can survive on surfaces and objects is a common question that people are asking.

But does coronavirus live on paper and can you catch it from surfaces, supermarket items or newspapers?

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Here’s what you need to know.

How long covid-19 can survive on surfaces and objects is a question many people are asking at the moment
How long covid-19 can survive on surfaces and objects is a question many people are asking at the moment

How can coronavirus spread?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains that coronavirus can “spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person.

“People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets,” adds the WHO.

In July of this year, the WHO explained, “People with the virus in their noses and throats may leave infected droplets on objects and surfaces (called fomites) when they sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails.

"Other people may become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths before cleaning their hands.

“This is why it is essential to thoroughly clean hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub product, and to clean surfaces regularly."

However, experts from the University of California have now claimed that coronavirus does not spread through touching surfaces, such as door handles and light switches.

Monica Gandhi, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Nautilus “It’s not [spread] through surfaces. There was a lot of fear at the beginning of the pandemic about fomite transmission.

“We now know the root of the spread is not from touching surfaces and touching your eye.

“It’s from being close to someone spewing virus from their nose and mouth, without in most cases knowing they are doing so.”

However, contrary to this, a study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Montana suggests that the virus can be spread through surfaces.

The NIAID says Covid-19 can survive for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

The researchers from the study said: “Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 are plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.”

How long can coronavirus last on surfaces?

UK Research and Innovation explains that evidence collected for Covid-19 “showed that viruses in droplet aerosols (a fine mist) had a half-life of just over an hour but some could survive for three hours or more. Infectious virus could be detected on copper surfaces for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for at least 72 hours.”

The WHO adds: “To protect yourself against COVID-19, disinfect objects and surfaces, especially the ones you touch regularly. You can use diluted bleach or alcohol for that. Make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.”

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Does coronavirus live on paper?

However, scientists and health experts have previously confirmed that newspapers are not transmitters of Covid-19, due to both the ink and the printing process that they go through.

Virologist George Lomonossoff told BBC Radio Scotland: “Newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through (to be produced).”

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, GP and health broadcaster, Dr Hilary Jones, also said: "For public health information right now it's important people have access to information through newspapers.”

He added: "If someone physically picks them up and delivers them to a doorstep or letterbox it's safe."

How to reduce the spread of infection in your home

The NHS says you should:

- wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds

- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

- put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

- clean objects and surfaces you touch often (such as door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products

- clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you have touched

However, do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels.