"Emerging evidence" of airborne spread of coronavirus: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday acknowledged that there is "emerging evidence" about the possibility that the novel coronavirus might spread by air, contrary to what was believed earlier. Issuing a warning to countries around the globe, the WHO pointed out that the pandemic was still accelerating and announced that a new scientific brief will be put out within the next few days. It is to be noted that an international group of scientists recently concluded that the transmission of the virus could be far beyond two metres (yards). One among the major guidelines in combating COVID-19 has been the two-metre social distancing rule, considering the dreaded disease has killed more than 538,000 people and infected over 11.6 million worldwide since it emerged in China last December.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during his media address stated there are no signs at present of the pandemic slowing down as nearly 400,000 new coronavirus cases were reported this past weekend. He pointed out that it took almost 12 weeks for the world to reach the first 400,000 cases. Tedros said, "The outbreak is accelerating and we've clearly not reached the peak of the pandemic,". He added, "While the number of deaths appears to have levelled off globally, in reality some countries have made significant progress in reducing the number of deaths, while in other countries deaths are still on the rise." He concluded saying the virus has "taken the world hostage".
Earlier, a group of 239 scientists on Monday said exhaled droplets under five micrometres in size containing the virus can remain in the air for several hours and could likely travel for up to ten metres. Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead on infection control, addressing a virtual press conference said, "We acknowledge that there is emerging evidence in this field." She added, "We believe that we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmission and also regarding the precautions that need to be taken,".
WHO's technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, in her statement said a scientific notice regarding the growing knowledge around the transmission of the virus was being produced by the UN health agency. She said, "We will be issuing our brief in the coming days, and that will outline everything that we have in this area," she said.
It has also been announced that the WHO will be sending an animal health expert and an epidemiologist to China later this weekend to kick off an investigation into the animal origins of the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, Tedros added they will be developing their investigation for a WHO-led international mission for the work already undertaken in China. WHO's emergencies director Michael Ryan went on to say it would always be "quite a detective story" in regard to identifying the source of any disease outbreak.