Data on airborne COVID-19 still early, more info needed-WHO

—urges healthcare officials to take all precautions while data develops

DPI, Guyana, Friday July 10, 2020

In updated guidance on the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) published yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) added airborne transmission to the list.

Today the organisation reminded that the information published is still being developed.

According to the updated report, while healthy individuals can produce aerosols through coughing and talking, the “aerosol route has not been demonstrated; much more research is needed given the possible implications of such route of transmission.”

It states that some experimental studies done in controlled lab settings found infectious RNA in the air for 3-16 hours.

However, the WHO maintains that the findings were produced from “experimentally induced aerosols that do not reflect normal human cough conditions”.

In some non-induced studies, RNA samples detected were extremely low and were not found to be capable of replication nor “infection-competent” and other studies found no presence of RNA.

While WHO says that short-range aerosol transmission cannot be ruled out in outbreaks reported indoors, more detailed investigations suggest that droplet and fomite transmission (transmitted from surfaces) led to transmission, especially where protocols were not observed.

WHO’s Technical Lead on COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove noted that further studies are needed before a definite conclusion.

“This is information that is still being developed. There is new literature being published and being released every day. So, this is a living review […] which means it will be updated regularly,” Dr. Van Kerkhove stated.

She recommended precautions be taken in healthcare settings to cater to the possibilities of aerosol transmission, as it must still be recognised as a possible danger.

Meanwhile, WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the initiation of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR), co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to evaluate the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lessons learned.

“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation,” Dr. Tedros said.

The panel is hopeful in presenting a substantive report in May 2021 at the World Health Assembly.