A relevant finding about Covid-19 spreading was announced during a press conference held on the 14th of April by the German virologist Hendrik Streek. The major finding is that it wasn’t detected any infectivity from virus sampled in supermarkets, restaurants and hairdressers, in the investigation his team performed. They studied the viral presence in grocery shops and other activities in Heinsberg, which is the German epicentre of Covid-19. Although previous laboratory tests proved that the virus can survive for several hours on surfaces and in aerosol, it doesn’t mean that we are surrounded by it. In fact, Streek revealed that it wasn’t possible to detect any living virus in samples they took from door handles, phones or toilets. This doesn’t mean there weren’t traces of the virus (because there were), just that the virus wasn’t infective. Streeck added: “we were in a household where many highly infectious people lived, and yet we did not manage to detect a living virus from any surface.”
Here’s how Streek describes the chance to get infected in a shop: “to actually ‘get’ the virus it would be necessary that someone coughs into their hand, immediately touches a door knob and then straight after that another person grasps the handle and goes on to touches their face”.
Obviously these news do not exclude the risk, but they provide a reassuring quantification of the probability to get infected in a shop.
Another encouraging fact is that the virus can survive only in droplets (for example of saliva), therefore the risk of infection exists only when infected droplets are inhaled, as the virologist Christian Drosten of Berlin’s Charité said.
The majority of infections are due to prolonged contact with sick people, such as family members. This is in line with the result of a study conducted by the World Health Organization in collaboration with Chinese authorities: “among 344 clusters involving 1308 cases (out of a total 1836 cases reported) in Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province, most clusters (78%-85%) have occurred in families”.
This information becomes relevant now that we approach the reopening of activities. People are trained to avoid touching their faces, and to disinfect their hands as soon as they touch something outside their home. This, together with the proper use of masks, should be safe enough to restart economic activities, with additional precautions about social distancing. The situation won’t go back to normal until a vaccine for Covid-19 will be available, but anyway it is a first important step in the process.