Covid-19 rarely spreads through contact with surfaces

Issue 6 2021 Editor's Choice

Over the past year-and-a-bit, everyone was talking about ‘the new normal’ and how the world would have to adjust to new and somewhat alien social practices to accommodate the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected life as we know it. This has not been an easy task as us humans are, generally speaking, very social creatures.


Matthew Chalmers.

Regardless of this fact, we humans still adapt very quickly. In fact, lately I find myself watching movies and wondering to myself, “What?! Why aren’t they wearing a mask?” when people walk around in public. I think that society has started the process of adjusting to these new social guidelines of wearing masks, sanitising hands, working remotely and avoiding face-to-face contact where possible.

Due to the overwhelming amount of information that is being communicated to the world, the average person is now fairly confident that they know the ins-and-outs of what Covid-19 is and how it is transmitted. However, we do not know everything about this virus nor how it acts. Scientists are constantly finding out more about this disease that challenges the initial idea of how the virus acted.

One recent development discovered in July 2020 by Emanuel Goldman, a microbiologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, found that there was little to support the idea that Covid-19 spreads from one person to another through contaminated surfaces. Since July last year, his position has only gained more traction and many other researchers, such as the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agree that contact is not the main way in which the virus is spread.

Aerosols vs fomites

Studies are now showing that the main form of transmission is from infected individuals who spew large droplets and small particles called aerosols when they cough, talk or breathe and are directly inhaled by people close by. While surface transmission is still possible, it is not thought to be a significant risk.

When we talk about the virus surviving on surfaces for weeks, we are not talking about aerosols but rather fomites. Fomites are a form of viral RNA that were identified by researchers by swabbing areas where the virus might be prominent, such as hospital rooms. These fomites were soon found to be on everyday objects like reading glasses, water bottles, showers and cooking utensils.

According to Goldman, however, this virus RNA is not necessarily cause for alarm. He stated that “The viral RNA is the equivalent of the corpse of the virus. It’s not infectious.”

What does all of this mean? Well, as long as you keep wearing a mask, sanitise your hands regularly, avoid licking handrails and practice social distancing, you should be fine.

Using biometric readers in the future

Based on the research mentioned above, we have reached the following conclusion: Covid-19 is spread predominantly by inhaling aerosols directly by talking to infected individuals who are not wearing a mask. The transmission of the virus through contact, however, has been proven not to be a major threat. Therefore, touching public surfaces such as fingerprint readers, doorhandles, handrails and other surfaces are not considered dangerous.

As an extra precautionary measure, iPulse has introduced UVC scanners into its offering that shines a light onto the sensor and kills the virus, turning it into the non-infectious fomites. In addition, iPulse recently partnered with Hitachi to bring in the contactless C-1 Scanners and VeinID Five Solution which uses the veins in your fingers/palm to verify your identity (see www.securitysa.com/13426r).

References

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00251-4

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/surface-transmission.html

https://www.webmd.com/lung/how-long-covid-19-lives-on-surfaces


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