WHO acknowledges indoor airborne spread of COVID-19, issues fresh guidelines

July 10, 2020: The World Health Organization issued fresh guidelines on the transmission of the novel coronavirus that acknowledge some reports of airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID

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July 10, 2020: The World Health Organization issued fresh guidelines on the transmission of the novel coronavirus that acknowledge some reports of airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. WHO also emphasised that more evidence in terms of research of airbone tranmission was required in that direction.

In new guidelines, the WHO acknowledged some reports of outbreak at indoor crowded spaces suggesting the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as in restaurants or in fitness classes. But the WHO said more research is "urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19." 

WHO has long dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus spreads through the air except for certain risky medical procedures. However, on Tuesday, the WHO acknowledged for the first time that there was “evidence emerging” that the transmission of the coronavirus is airborne. Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, had said at a media briefing in Geneva that such evidence was emerging, but it was not definitive. “The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings – especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she had said. “However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this.”

Still, officials also pointed out that other modes of transmission, like contaminated surfaces or close contacts between people in such indoor environments, might also have explained the disease's spread.

The WHO also recognised the importance of asymptomatic people spreading COVID -19. The UN health body has long downplayed this phenomenon. The WHO has repeatedly said such transmission was rare. “Infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don’t have symptoms,” the agency said on Thursday. However, the extent of truly asymptomatic infection still remains unknown, it added.

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