TOKYO — The coronavirus remains active on human skin for nine hours, Japanese researchers have found, in a discovery they said showed the need for frequent hand washing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pathogen that causes the flu survives on human skin for about 1.8 hours by comparison, said the study published this month in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.
“The nine-hour survival of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with IAV (influenza A virus), thus accelerating the pandemic,” it said.
The research team tested skin collected from autopsy specimens, about one day after death. Both the coronavirus and the flu virus are inactivated within 15 seconds by applying ethanol, which is used in hand sanitizers.
“The longer survival of SARSCoV-2 on the skin increases contacttransmission risk; however, hand hygiene can reduce this risk,” the study said.
The study backs World Health Organization guidance for regular and thorough hand washing to limit transmission of the virus, which has infected nearly 40 million people around the world since it first emerged in China late last year.
Europe battles soaring virus caseload
Millions of Europeans faced tough new coronavirus restrictions Saturday as governments stepped up efforts to slow the surge in infections, after the World Health Organization reported a “very concerning” 44 percent rise in European cases over one week.
From Saturday evening, Paris and several other French cities go under a nighttime curfew that will last at least a month.
England is banning mixed household gatherings in the capital and other areas, and Italy’s most populous region is limiting bar openings and suspending sports events.
Cases of the disease, which has killed more than 1.1 million people around the world, have been soaring beyond levels seen in the first wave earlier this year, when many countries resorted to national lockdowns to get control of the crisis.
As well as the death toll, the pandemic has wrought social and economic havoc around the world.
The United States, which has suffered the worst toll with more than 218,000 fatalities, on Friday revealed a record deficit of $3.1 trillion in the fiscal year ended September 30.
It also announced that the number of cases there had passed eight million.
Global daily infections also hit a new record.
In a bid to stem the worrying rise in infections and in the hopes of heading off a return to full lockdowns, many governments have tightened measures to control the spread of the pandemic — even if some dissenters are fighting back in the courts.
Curfews, closures, legal battles
About 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other French cities were facing a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew from Saturday after cases surged in what has once again become one of Europe’s major hotpots.
French health authorities recorded more than 25,000 new coronavirus cases, with 178 deaths. Many restaurant owners are unhappy at the hit their businesses will take.
Britain is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with over 43,000 deaths from almost 700,000 cases.
But as the government ramped up restrictions, banning indoor meetings between members of different households in London and several other English cities, there was growing criticism from some quarters. Under the new measures, about 28 million people — half of England’s population — are now subject to tight social restrictions.
Some officials in northwest England have objected to their cities being placed on the highest level of a new three-tier alert system.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged that local restriction policies cannot be “pain free.”
But the hope is that these measures will be enough to head off another full lockdown.
Northern Ireland meanwhile shut down pubs and restaurants on Friday for a month and extended the school holidays.
Surge in cases, tighter measures German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home whenever possible after 7,830 cases emerged over 24 hours.
“What will determine winter and our Christmas will be decided in the weeks ahead by how people react now,” she said in her weekly podcast address.
In Italy, the wealthy northern region of Lombardy worst hit by the first wave of the virus in February, has ordered all bars to shut at midnight.
Slovakia announced Saturday it would test everyone over 10 for the virus, as infections surged there.