Health & Wellness

Why Handwashing Is Vital

The COVID-19 virus remains stable on surfaces for hours and even days

Photo: iStock/filadendron.


The results of a new study reinforce the importance in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 of routinely cleaning surfaces you use frequently, such as your phone, debit card, or gloves.

US researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases replicated in the lab how the coronavirus can be spread by an infected person and found that it remains stable for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, for 24 hours on cardboard, and for up to four hours on copper.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, explains why cities are blocking off access to playgrounds and exercise equipment in parks and why you should avoid taking the subway or touching things in public unless absolutely necessary.

The study also found that the virus lives up to three hours in aerosols, through droplets in fine airborne mist, though there’s no evidence those carrying the virus produce aerosols when coughing or sneezing. Droplets don’t remain in the air, but rather appear to fall to the ground within about a two metre radius.

Scientists noted that SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome that emerged from China in 2002, was spread by similar means––though never to the same degree that COVID-19 is now spreading today. They suggest this may be because people are able to spread the disease before becoming symptomatic, which was not the case with SARS.

To disinfect surfaces in your kitchen or bathroom or such as your phone or TV remote, you can use any regular household cleaning spray or wipe such as Lysol or Clorox. You can also reduce the risk of coming into contact with the virus in the instance you’ve touched a contaminated surface by not touching your face and frequently washing your hands.