Chances of contracting Coronavirus from surfaces is slim, a new Israeli study finds
Israeli researchers find that samples of the virus taken from mobile phones owned by coronavirus patients cannot reproduce in laboratory conditions. Meanwhile, for the first time since the pandemic hit Israel, no new corona cases have been reported. Death toll steady at 272.
Israeli research currently underway could pose a dramatic development in our understanding of the novel coronavirus, particularly the question of whether or not the virus can be contracted by touching surfaces that were touched by a corona carrier.
The initial results of the study are being reported as for the first time since the coronavirus crisis began in Israel, no new cases have been reported. As of Monday, the number of confirmed corona cases in Israel remained steady at 16,621. The total number of corona deaths also remained steady at 272. There were a total of 3,335 active COVID-19 cases, 57 of whom were listed in serious condition, with 47 of the serious cases on ventilators. Another 39 patients were listed in moderate condition.
The concern that the virus might stay alive and active on surfaces has sparked a boom in sales of cleaning products and disinfectants, as well as a series of bizarre precautions, such as the recommendation that books returned to libraries be separated and disinfected.
The study, conducted by doctors and researchers from Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, Laniado Hospital in Netanyahu, and the Israel Institute of Biological Research in Nes Ziona, found that it was highly unlikely that the coronavirus samples taken from surfaces touched by corona patients were still alive or able to reproduce themselves in laboratories.
Thus far, the study has examined samples taken from the corona wards at Assuta Ashdod and Laniado. Some samples were even taken from patients' cellular devices.
The incomplete results available at this point indicate that these samples of the virus cannot cause infection in laboratory conditions.
Dr. Tal Brosh, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Assuta Ashdod, who is conducting the study with Dr. Regev Cohen from Laniado Hospital and Dr. Shai Weiss of the IIBR, explained that "The question of contact spread from surfaces arose a lot in the media, and there were discussions about how long the virus would survive on surfaces of various materials. From the beginning, I haven't believed that that there was much transfer from surfaces or spread via surfaces. We have no epidemiological proof of anyone contracting the virus from surface contact."
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that has looked into the presence of live and infectious virusus on surfaces, and as of now, we haven't proved that it is even possible to contract the virus from surfaces," Brosh said.
Brosh also observed that given the partial results from the research, he thought that the issue of contracting the virus from coming into contact with it on surfaces was "insignificant."
The second stage of the study took samples from items touched by corona patients staying at one of the country's hotel convalescent facilities: prayer books, jacket buttons, glasses, bottles, chairs, door handles, and more. The results of the viruses found on these surfaces will be available in a few days.
According to Brosh, the virus is mainly spread by close and direct contact with a carrier.
"My position is that there is no need to disinfect public spaces. They must be cleaned as they normally are, with the usual cleaning materials. There is no need to spray or fog [against the virus]. In places where a corona patient is known to have been for any length of time, the surfaces most frequently touched should be cleaned just to be sure," Brosh said.
The official position of the Health Ministry is that the virus is mainly spread through direct contact between people and respiratory droplets and that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough that land on surfaces can be a source of infection. Surfaces should be cleaned using soap and water, then disinfected, if they are frequently touched in public spaces.
As Israel's public schools re-open in the midst of a massive heatwave, there has been much discussion about whether instructions to keep classroom windows open should be followed, and whether or not children can be expected to wear masks in non-air conditioned classrooms in temperatures of over 35C (95F).
Brosh addressed this issue, noting that while the infectious disease team at the Health Ministry had not been asked to make any recommendation, open windows were preferable. However, he said, "If the windows are open in weather like this, and the classroom is boiling hot, children will sweat, they'll take off their masks, and they'll touch their faces. It's better to have closed, air-conditioned classrooms where the children wear masks."