As part of new guidelines, the World Health Organization has stated that one can’t rule out the possibility and the likelihood that the Coronavirus can’t be transmitted through air particles. In fact, it is likely to be transmitted through air in closed spaces indoors, including in gyms and restaurants. The new guidance came in the wake after 239 scientists from 32 different countries published an open letter earlier this week calling for the WHO and other health authorities to update their information on coronavirus.

Earlier, the WHO had acknowledged that the virus may become airborne in certain environments. The example of one such environment was during “medical procedures that generate aerosols.” The new guidance issued by the WHO states that the virus may be able to spread through particles in the air in “indoor crowded spaces.” citing “choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes” as possible areas of airborne transmission.

As per the new guidance, in indoor crowded spaces especially which are crowded and inadequately ventilated over a prolonged period of time with infected person, short-range aerosol transmission cannot be ruled out.  Just like the early evidence suggested, the possibility of airborne transmission in such environments, spread by droplets and surfaces could also explain transmission in those cases. Although, the WHO has also maintained that more research is required to back this claim and investigate preliminary findings. The agency cited respiratory droplets to be the main mode of transmission. 

Furthermore, in theory, it can be stated that someone could inhale the aerosols and become infected but it remains unknown, if such aerosols would actually carry enough viable virus to cause infection. 

So far, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by this type of aerosol route has not been demonstrated. Given the possible implications of such route of transmission, more research is required to back the claim. 

It is to be noted that if airborne transmission proves to be a major factor in the spread of the virus, it could have wide-ranging policy consequences. Masks may prove to be imperative in reducing infections, especially in indoor environments and even in areas where physical distancing is possible.  Specialized masks designed to block microscopic particles may become more important.

In an article entitled “It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19,” the group of scientists contend that the WHO needs to give more weight to the role of the airborne spread of Covid-19. 

A little over six months ago, when Coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, some scientists criticized the WHO for being slow to issue guidance on the latest research into the coronavirus, the WHO has defended its guidance citing that it’s transparent about its review process and applies healthy skepticism to research that has not been peer-reviewed.

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