WHO acknowledges airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus

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After over 200 scientists from many countries wrote an open letter to the WHO, urging the global body to revise COVID-19 transmission guidelines, WHO on Tuesday acknowledged the possibility of the virus’s airborne transmission.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19, ” WHO’s technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic Maria Van Kerkhove told media in a news briefing.

“…The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings – especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she said.

On July 6th, The New York Times first reported that 239 scientists from 32 countries wrote an open letter to the World Health Organization to revise transmission guidelines for the novel coronavirus. They outlined evidence that the novel coronavirus is capable of spreading through smaller particles in the air, making it potentially airborne. 

WHO’s current guidelines on the spread of COVID-19 states that the virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets of the infected person while coughing, sneezing, and talking and the droplets settle on the ground.

In this light, governments across the world strongly advise on social distancing as the paramount protection from the spread. But any update following the recent development could change the current minimum 3-feet social distancing norm.

However, the open letter sent to WHO from the Geneva-based agency outlined evidence that smaller particles that remain suspended in the air are capable of infecting a person as well; meaning the virus is airborne. The scientists are urging WHO is revise the guidelines.

In the coming days WHO will be publishing a scientific brief stating the knowledge of transmission that is currently available, Economic Times reports. Van Kerkhove emphasized on “a comprehensive package of interventions” and “not only physical distancing” that will be required to stop the spread of the virus.