How long can the coronavirus stay on surfaces?

The number of COVID-19 cases now exceeds 378,000 worldwide. This new coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is having unprecedented global effects. The number of deaths in Italy surpasses 6000 and there is a lock-down in many countries. The number of worldwide cases of COVID-19 increases each day and it is important we do everything we can to prevent the spread of disease. To achieve this, we need to understand how the virus works. Fortunately, we have research.

To understand the research on COVID-19, it helps to know that there are different types of coronaviruses. The SARS virus was a coronavirus. The common cold can be caused by a coronavirus, too. You can think of these other types of coronaviruses as cousins to COVID-19. In February, a group of researchers studied how long these cousins of COVID-19 remained on different surfaces. They reviewed 22 studies and found that other coronaviruses could live on surfaces for up to nine days. They also found that coronaviruses remain longer on plastic and metal. 

Another study published in March compared how long COVID-19 remained active on different surfaces. They found that COVID-19 can live up to three days on plastic and on stainless steel. It can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on copper for up to four hours. 

It’s important to be aware that even if you are practicing safe physical distancing from others, the virus could be present on surfaces nearby. If you touch a surface that has not recently been cleaned, you could be at risk of getting the infection. That’s why it is important to maintain clean surfaces, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Interestingly, a study from 2015 found that people touch their face on average 23 times per hour.

What you can do:

  1. The coronavirus can stay active on surfaces for days. Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially high touch surfaces like door knobs, light switches, countertops, phones, keyboards, faucets and toilets. 
  2. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face.
  3. Listen to public health officials.
  4. If you stay at home, you will save lives.

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