Coronavirus: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces? Is post from overseas safe?

24 March 2020, 08:16

Is it safe to touch surfaces in public?
Is it safe to touch surfaces in public? Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Coronavirus UK: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces? How does coronavirus spread? Is it safe to get post from China or Italy? LBC News answers your questions.

Can the coronavirus live on soft surfaces like fabric or carpet? What about hard surfaces?

At the moment the available evidence suggests a frequently-touched hard surface, such as a doorknob or elevator button is more of a risk than something like a carpet.

Health organisations have very little information about how long Covid-19 can survive on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the Covid-19 virus) may be present on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

Health organisations say this may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

The advice is if you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

After touching surfaces such as handrails or doorknobs mean people should wash their hands as soon as possible once they get the chance or use hand sanitiser.

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What is coronavirus (Covid-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can make humans and animals sick. They cause illnesses that can range from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.

Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Read more: Coronavirus UK: Do surgical face masks work to avoid virus symptoms?

Is it safe to receive packages from China or Italy?

World Health Organisation advice is yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes Covid-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low. 

Read more: Coronavirus: What is a pandemic and how is one declared?

How does Covid-19 spread?

The WHO says people can catch Covid-19 from others who are already infected with the virus.

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with Covid-19 coughs or exhales.

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These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch Covid-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

People can also catch Covid-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with Covid-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

The virus is most likely spread through:

-Close contact with an infectious person

-Contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze

-Touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

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