DOH cautions public over possibility of airborne COVID-19 transmission

Published July 9, 2020, 9:42 AM

by Analou de Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) has renewed its call for the public to observe minimum health standards such as wearing of masks, observing physical distancing, cough etiquette, and proper handwashing to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in wake of emerging evidence of airborne transmission of the virus that causes the dreaded disease respiratory illness. 

MOTHER AND CHILD – Marian Bernabe has her infant child encased in a protective plastic sheet upon their arrival at Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Isabela Province last Thursday. (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

An international group of 239 scientists had earlier urged authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to recognize that the coronavirus can spread in the air at distances well beyond two meters (six feet), and to revise their prevention guidelines accordingly. 

In a commentary that appeared in the Oxford Academic journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt” that viruses can travel tens of meters in the air, and analyses of certain spreading events had demonstrated the same was true of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, AFP reported earlier. 

“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale),” wrote the authors, led by Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology. 

With this emerging evidence about COVID-19, it is imperative for the public to be extra careful, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease specialist at the University of the Philippines’ National Institutes of Health. 

“This possibility of airborne transmission is not new, and even if the evidence is far from definitive, it is always prudent to take precautions,” said Salvana. 

Salvana said that the public should avoid talking without a mask, particularly in enclosed areas such as elevators. 

“Everyone else needs to be meticulous with cloth or surgical mask wearing. Avoid crowded areas and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation,” said Salvana. 

“Singing has also been implicated in superspreader events, so no karaoke for now. Do not eat together at work as this has also been associated with clusters,” he added. 

Salvana also advised the public to avoid non-essential travel. 

“Limit trips outside the house and practice physical distancing, work from home if possible, and disinfect regularly,” he said. 

“COVID-19 is beatable if we all work together and if everyone does the right thing to protect each other,” he added.

Read more: Global experts warn of COVID-19 airborne threat