Is SARS-CoV-2 Airborne?

Shekhar C. Mande, Director-General, CSIR Secretary, DSIR


While we are now past the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, some new ideas of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 have begun to emerge. Some are still being debated. Among the recent important debates are concerns whether the transmission is airborne or not? I have attempted to answer this based on the current understanding. 

It is now accepted that the route of infection is through the respiratory tract. It is believed that the infection can be acquired through inhalation, or even by touch through the mouth or nose, or possibly eyes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has maintained that the primary spread of infection is through person-to-person contact. This position of the WHO is based on the presumption that when the infected person sneezes or coughs, large droplets are released, which can be inhaled by people in close proximity. Alternately, when these droplets settle on surfaces, people who touch these surfaces are at risk through touching their mouth, nose or eyes, unless hands are washed frequently. Thus, the guidelines issued across the world from time-to-time have been to maintain physical distance, and to wash hands frequently with soap. The large droplets do not travel distances in air very far and quickly settle down, and hence maintaining at least 1 m distance from the infected individual would appear to avoid the risk of contact. The WHO typically refers this as people-to-people contact...Read More