Virus can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces

By April Murphy

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared SARSCoV-2 a pandemic on 11th March 2020. On 7th August, over 18.8 million cases were confirmed with more than 708,000 reported deaths.

Extensive research has been carried out on the virus that is responsible for COVID-19. It was found that SARS-CoV-2 can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces including banknotes, glass – such as that found on mobile phone screens – and stainless steel.

CSIRO, in partnership with Australian Department of Defence, undertook the studies in collaboration with the 5 Nation Research and Development (5RD) Council, which comprises representatives from the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The research revealed that the virus survived longer at lower temperatures and that it tended to last longer on non-porous or smooth surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and vinyl, compared to porous complex surfaces such as cotton. It was also noted that the virus survived longer on paper banknotes than plastic banknotes.

“While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas,” says Dr Debbie Eagles, Deputy Director of ACDP.

The Virology Journal states that the rate at which COVID-19 has spread throughout the globe has been alarming. While the role of fomite transmission is not yet fully understood, precise data on the environmental stability of SARS-CoV-2 is required to determine the risks of fomite transmission from contaminated surfaces.

“At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days,” says Dr Eagles

Further experiments were carried out at 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, with survival times decreasing as the temperature increased. 

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said surface survivability research builds on the national science agency’s other COVID-19 work, including vaccine testing, wastewater testing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) manufacture and accreditation, and big data dashboards supporting each state.

“Establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people,” Dr Marshall said.  

“How long they can survive and remain infectious depends on the type of virus, quantity, the surface, environmental conditions and how it’s deposited – for example touch vs droplets emitted by coughing,” says Professor Trevor Drew, Director of ACDP.

UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are each conducting research on different aspects of virus survivability with the results shared as they become available.