The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might spread in the air under certain conditions. The admission comes on the back of more than 200 scientists writing an open letter to the organisation.
The WHO has consistently held that the coronavirus infection spreads through droplets when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks, or for certain risky medical procedures, such as when patients are first put on breathing machines.
239 scientists from 32 countries had written an open letter to the WHO, outlining the evidence showing smaller particles can infect people. Whether carried by large droplets that zoom through the air after a sneeze, or by much smaller exhaled droplets that may glide the length of a room, the coronavirus is borne through air and can infect people when inhaled, the scientists said.
In a change to its previous thinking, WHO noted on Thursday that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks in restaurants, choir practices and fitness classes suggested the virus might have been spread in the air.
masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients,” according to the sources.
WHO’s stance also recognised the importance of people spreading COVID-19 without symptoms, a phenomenon the organisation has long downplayed. WHO has repeatedly said “such transmission is rare” despite a growing consensus among scientists globally that asymptomatic spread likely accounts for a significant amount of transmission.
The agency said that most spread is via droplets from infected people who cough or sneeze, but added that people without symptoms are also capable of transmitting the disease. The extent of truly asymptomatic infection in the community remains unknown, WHO said.