Why a group of scientists believe that COVID-19 may not be as infectious once its been 20 minutes in the air

A study carried out by UK’s University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre said that data revealed that coronavirus lost 90 percent of its ability to infect within 20 minutes of becoming airborne – with most of the loss occurring within the first five minutes

A member of the Senegalese graffiti collective RBS CREW, observes a graffiti representing a woman sneezing in a tissue as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 in Dakar. AFP

How long is coronavirus infectious in the air?

How long is it infectious after becoming airborne?

A new study has provided an insight into this and also in which spaces the virus more infectious.

New study findings

A study carried out by the University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre revealed that coronavirus loses 90 percent of its ability to infect us within 20 minutes of becoming airborne – with most of the loss occurring within the first five minutes.

Prof Jonathan Reid, the lead author of the study, told The Guardian, “People have been focused on poorly ventilated spaces and thinking about airborne transmission over metres or across a room. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I think still the greatest risk of exposure is when you’re close to someone.

“When you move further away, not only is the aerosol diluted down, there’s also less infectious virus because the virus has lost infectivity {as a result of time}.”

The article is a pre-print and has not been peer-reviewed, meaning it hasn’t been evaluated by the medical community for any potential errors or inaccuracies.

The researchers say the data suggests dry air may help limit overall exposure to SARS-CoV-2, although further research is required to confirm this, as well as the possible effect of pH and CO2 levels.

Explaining how they went about with their study, the researchers said that they developed an apparatus to generate virus-containing particles and allowed them to float between two electric rings for anywhere between five seconds and 20 minutes in a tightly controlled environment.

According to the study, when the viral particles leave the lungs, they quickly lose water and the lower levels of carbon dioxide in the environment result in a rapid increase in pH, which affects the virus’s ability to infect human cells.

The findings of the study also reaffirmed the importance of wearing face masks and maintaining social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dry vs humid environment

The study revealed that in an office-like environment — when humidity was at 40 percent — the virus loses half of its infectiousness within 10 seconds.

At 90 percent humidity – the equivalent of a steam or shower room – half of the particles were still infectious after five minutes.

At 20 minutes, around 10 percent of the virus remained infectious.

The researchers said temperature made no difference to viral infectivity, despite the popular theory that COVID-19 finds it harder to spread in summer.

COVID across the world

As of 13 January, the world had reported a total of 315,390,402 COVID-19 cases and the toll was at 5,510,327.

In India, 2,47,417 fresh COVID-19 cases were recorded taking the tally to 3,60,70,510. The country also saw 442 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 4,84,655.

The daily positivity rate was recorded at 13.11 percent while the weekly positivity rate was recorded at 10.80 percent.

The World Health Organization had in its daily press briefing said that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is dangerous, and especially so for those who have not been vaccinated against the disease.

With inputs from agencies

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