The World Health Organization on Thursday admitted the possibility that the novel coronavirus could perhaps be airborne in closed, poorly ventilated and crowded places.
Their admission followed an open letter written by over 200 scientists who provided evidence that showed that floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.
The WHO has maintained that current evidence suggests that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 occurs primarily between people through direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people through infected secretions such as saliva and respiratory secretions, or through their respiratory droplets, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.
"Airborne transmission of the virus can occur in health care settings where specific medical procedures, called aerosol generating procedures, generate very small droplets called aerosols. Some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission, for example during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes," said WHO on Thursday.
The WHO also said that respiratory droplets from infected individuals can also land on objects, creating fomites - contaminated surfaces.
“As environmental contamination has been documented by many reports, it is likely that people can also be infected by touching these surfaces and touching their eyes, nose or mouth before cleaning their hands," said WHO.
The global body also said that is a strong possibility of transmission of the coronavirus by asymptomatic patients though evidence so far has shown that it primarily people with symptoms or developing symptoms who have transmitted the disease.
“While someone who never develops symptoms can also pass the virus to others, it is still not clear to what extent this occurs and more research is needed in this area," the WHO said.
The WHO has said that there is an urgent need for high-quality research to elucidate the relative importance of different transmission routes; the role of airborne transmission in the absence of aerosol generating procedures; the dose of virus required for transmission to occur; the settings and risk factors for super-spreading events; and the extent of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.