As the world eagerly awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, it is a matter of great concern that we haven't even fully understood the virus and how it transmits to date. Every day a new, scarier possibility stares us in the face, with a substantial number of these possibilities constantly challenging our mitigation processes and how we have been approaching the entire idea of social-distancing and precaution all this while.
In another laster update, after long dismissing the possibility that the novel coronavirus can spread through the air, WHO has finally acknowledged the possibility. The organisation accepted the same while pointing at studies that evaluated the COVID-19 outbreak in gyms, restaurants, and choir practices that suggest that the novel coronavirus might have spread through the air. "Airborne spread particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out,” WHO noted.
However, WHO continues to posit that other modes of transmission such as close contacts between those infected and contaminated surfaces might have also led to the disease’s spread. Besides, accepting the possibility of COVID-19 being an airborne disease, the organisation also acknowledged the possibility of asymptomatic infection, a premise that WHO has been downplaying since the very onset of the outbreak.
While accepting that asymptomatic people can also spread COVID-19, WHO further added, “The extent of truly asymptomatic infection in the community remains unknown."
WHO's statement on the airborne transmission of coronavirus comes shortly after 239 scientists from 32 countries wrote an open letter to the organisation regarding it. In the letter, the scientists had stated that it is time that the WHO addresses the airborne transmission of COVID-19 for there exists strong evidence that suggests the same.
“It’s increasingly clear that these big outbreaks where lots of people get infected are one of the most important ways in which this pandemic keeps going. We need to stop these super-spreading events and the way to stop those super-spreading events is is to pay attention to the airborne transmission,” Don Milton, a virologist from the University of Maryland had said in a media statement.
Until now, the WHO kept maintaining that the novel coronavirus spreads primarily through small droplets from the nose and mouth of an infected person that either settle on surfaces or quickly move towards the ground.
However, scientists claim that there is evidence to show that exhaled particles can linger in the air and can infect the people who take them in while breathing. And now that the WHO has accepted the possibility of airborne transmission, this calls for a revision in the public health measures and mitigation processes listed by the organisation to contain the virus.
This is also crucial information given that many countries are beginning to open public spaces like malls, restaurants, etc. which is not exactly a great idea if COVID-19 is an airborne disease. If this claim proves to be true then we'd have to re-think how we navigate public space until the virus remains unabated especially in densely populated countries like India. As the country slowly begins to open up, this is something that needs to be paid due consideration.
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