WHO admits COVID-19 may be general airborne threat

World Health Organization finally acknowledges that “evidence is emerging” that airborne transmission of the coronavirus may be a major threat indoors.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The World Health Organization acknowledged Tuesday that the coronavirus may be spread through the air more than was previously thought and agreed that airborne transmission of the coronavirus may be a threat in indoor spaces.

The UN body charged with looking after world health was forced to respond after a letter signed by hundreds of experts was published Monday, saying “it is time to address airborne transmission of COVID-19.”

WHO had previously claimed there was not enough evidence to show the virus could be passed at a distance greater than one meter from an infected person. With the world infection rate appearing to be growing out of control, the letter from 239 doctors and researchers from around the world called on WHO to look at the facts and take action.

“We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognize the potential for airborne spread of COVID-19,” the scientists wrote, saying “there is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale) and we are advocating for the use of preventive measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission.”

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WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had previously said people should “wear a mask where appropriate.”

While health officials in Israel and America have been calling on the general public to wear face masks, the latest WHO guidelines dated June 5 only specify “governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

At a press conference to discuss the letter, the head of WHO’s committee on infection prevention and control, Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, admitted that the spread of coronavirus through the air especially in “crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings, cannot be ruled out.”

“We acknowledge that there is emerging evidence in this field, as in all other fields,” Dr. Allegranzi said. “And therefore, 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.”

However, the world body does not yet recommend that everyone where a mask, only telling governments to provide information “if masks are recommended for the general public.”

Allegranzi said WHO recommends “appropriate and optimal ventilation” of indoor environments, as well as physical distancing.

One of the experts who signed the letter,  chemistry professor Jose-Luis Jimenez of the University of Colorado Boulder, welcomed the WHO announcement.

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“We are very glad that WHO has finally acknowledged the accumulating evidence, and will add aerosol transmission indoors to the likely modes of transmission” for the coronavirus, Jimenez said. “This will allow the world to better protect themselves and fight the pandemic.”

Over two months ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported research findings that coronavirus-tainted droplets launched into the air by speaking can remain active for up to 14 minutes.