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WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated on Tuesday that there is “emerging evidence” that the coronavirus might spread by air further than previously thought, and warned that the pandemic is still accelerating.

The two metre physical distancing guideline has been a major facet in the fight against Covid-19. However, after an international group of more than 200 scientists concluded the virus could travel far beyond two metres. These scientists have outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in and can linger in the air and are urging the WHO, in an open letter, to update their guidelines on how the respiratory disease passes between people.

WHO officials have cautioned that the evidence is still preliminary and requires further assessment. Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, said the WHO has acknowledged this possibility and would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” she told a news briefing.

“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said.

“This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for healthcare workers.”

Any change in the WHO’s assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 2-metres of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy regarding control and prevention of the virus, may also have to adjust public health measures.